Five Works by Zaha Hadid
Nordpark Railway Stations, Innsbruck, Austria (2004-2007)
Inaugurated on December 1, 2007, the Nordpark Cable Railway consists of four new stations and a cable-stayed suspension bridge over the River Inn. The roof surface of the four stations built for the INKB (Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen GmbH) Public Private Partnership is a total of 2,500 square meters (27,000 square feet). The railway runs from the Congress Station in the center of the city, up the Nordkette Mountain to the Hungerburg Station, 288 meters (945 feet) above Innsbruck.
Hadid had previously completed the Bergisel Ski Jump in the Austrian city (1999-2002). The architect won a 2005 competition for the Nordpark project together with the contractor Strabag.
Adapting her designs to the specific locations of each station, Hadid employed "an overall language of fluidity." According to the architect: "We studied natural phenomena, such as glacial moraines and ice movements, as we wanted each station to use the fluid language of natural ice formations, like a frozen stream on the mountainside."
Double-curvature glass on top of concrete plinths forms an "artificial landscape." Recently available fabrication methods, such as CNC milling and glass thermoforming, allowed the use of computer design and production with some techniques borrowed from the automotive industry.
MAXXI: National Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome, Italy (1998-2009)
The client for the National Museum of XXI Century Arts (MAXXI) is the Italian Ministry of Culture. Given the date of its conception, its forms may be more related to earlier work of Hadid's, such as her Landscape Formation One (LF One, 1998-1999), than to her most recent designs.
The difference here is, of course, the location is no longer related to a natural setting, but rather to the city. Hadid's description of the project explains: "By intertwining the circulation with the urban context, the building shares a public dimension with the city, overlapping tendril-like paths and open space. In addition to the circulatory relationship, the architectural elements are also geometrically aligned with the urban grids that join at the site."
Allowing both visitors and curators a good deal of freedom for their movement through the space, or interpretation of its potential, Hadid further explains: "The drift through the Center is a trajectory through varied ambiences, filtered spectacles, and differentiated luminosity. Whilst offering a new freedom in the curators' palette, this in turn digests and recomposes the experience of art spectatorship as liberated dialogue with artifact and environment."
The idea of drifting through the space is essential to the concept of the building, as opposed to a predetermined set of "key points." Nor is this interpretation related only to the question of architecture. "We take this opportunity, in the adventure of designing such a forward-looking institution, to confront the material and conceptual dissonance evoked by art practice since the late 1960s. The paths lead away from the 'object' and its correlative sanctifying, toward fields of multiple associations that are anticipative of the necessity to change," again according to the architect.
The dissolution of such typical museum elements as the vertical wall intended to hang paintings here allows for walls that turn into ceilings or are transformed into windows. Surely related to the later work that provides for flowing spatial continuity, the MAXXI might be considered a transition toward that increasingly marked theme in Hadid's work.
CMA-CGM Tower, Marseille, France (2005-2010)
CMA-CGM is the world's third-largest container shipping company. Hadid was selected as designer of the new CMA-CGM headquarters building in Marseille in November 2004. Describing a sweeping arc rising up from the ground to a height of 100 meters (330 feet), the tower has a double-facade system, a "fixed structural core," and a "peripheral array of columns that results in a dynamic symbiosis." The architect describes the project as a "vertical icon" intended to interact with old landmarks of the city, such as the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde and the Château d'If.
A considerable amount of attention is paid in the description to the connectivity of the tower with pedestrian, water, and vehicular access to the site, emphasizing its interaction with the city. The form of the tower allows for larger floor plates in its lower areas while "the curving profiles act together with the core to provide a rigid frame and give a sense of movement and freedom to a new typology of tower."
Marseille, like most other French cities, has shown little of the enthusiasm of other European centers for tall buildings and it is certain that the CMA-CGM building will stand out in the city skyline, creating the sort of corporate visibility that most clients dream of. Nor is Marseille really a city known for its contemporary architecture, an image likely to change with the completion of this tower.
London Aquatics Centre, London, United Kingdom (2003-2012)
This facility for the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games and future use has an area of 24,000 square meters (260,000 square feet). Hadid makes it clear that the architecture in this instance is "inspired by the fluid geometry of water in motion." An undulating roof rises from the ground and encloses the swimming pools in a "unifying gesture of fluidity."
Part of the Olympic Park master plan, the facility is located on its southeastern corner. Pedestrian bridges crossing a canal will connect the London Aquatics Centre to the rest of the Park. The structure is laid out perpendicular to the Stratford City Bridge and contains three pools: one for training, one for the swimming events, and the other for diving — with seating for 17,500 people for the main competition pool and diving, and 5,000 seats for water polo. Other planned elements are contained in a podium.
The steel and aluminum roof with double-curvature parabolic arches is most probably the "signature" element of the complex, filled with glazing where it rises above the podium. The interior of the roof is to be clad in timber. Hadid's participation in the Olympic program is a clear indication that she has taken on a significant position in architecture in the United Kingdom.
Although the BBC reported in July 2008 that the complexity of the roof structure might delay opening, the Olympic Delivery Authority denied this charge and commenced construction shortly after the report.
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Philip Jodidio studied art history and economics at Harvard, and edited Connaissance des Arts for over 20 years. His books include Taschen's Architecture Now! series, Building a New Millennium, and monographs on Tadao Ando, Norman Foster, Richard Meier, and Jean Nouvel.
This article is excerpted from Zaha Hadid: Complete Works, 1979-2009 by Philip Jodidio, copyright © 2009, with permission of the publisher, Taschen.