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Venice preview: Zaha Hadid Architects

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Pleats and lightweight shells

This year’s Biennale theme, Common Ground, shows how the work of the major protagonists of contemporary architecture, often regarded as independent, individual creations, is in fact based on historical lineages of collective research.

This is also true of the work of Zaha Hadid Architects. It is well known that the early work was initially inspired by Russian Suprematism. In our installation and exhibition we want to show that - apart from the dialogue with the work of contemporary competitors that existed all along - our recent work connects to a rather different historical strand of research. The more our design research and work evolved on the basis of algorithmic form generation, the more we learned to appreciate the work of pioneers like Frei Otto, who had achieved the most elegant designs on the basis of material-structural form-finding processes.

From Frei Otto we learned how the richness, organic coherence and fluidity of the forms and spaces we desire could emerge rationally from an intricate balance of forces. We expanded Frei Otto’s method to include environmental as well as structural logics, and we moved from material to computational simulations. One particular area of research we would like to explore with our installation is the domain of lightweight shells in combination with tensile structures.

We have already designed a number of complex shells, as well as some tensile structures. Here, for the first time, we would like to integrate these two worlds. The shell should be made from pleated metal. We will surround our installation with the documentation of our research. This includes the display of key reference projects of the pre-eminent precursors in this line. We will show the work of Frei Otto, Félix Candela and Heinz Isler, among others. We are also including the work of Philippe Block, a young, contemporary researcher of stone compression shells.

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