RIIIIING, RIIIIING, RIIIING…
– Good morning, America!!!
– Good morning, good morning, but… is it a joke?!… How are you?
– Good morning, Frank, it’s me, Zaha, Zaha Hadid.
– Hello, dear Zaha, it’s good to hear from you, but what happened? It’s a bit early around here, the sun just rose and I thought this might be a joke. Where are you, what’s going on?
– Night falls and I needed to talk to you – without e-mail or webcam – talk to you like the old times, with my eyes shut. I am very sad and confused like never before… a bad dream and yes, I was trying to make a joke.
– Oh my, it can’t be! Not you, a strong, talented, awarded and celebrated woman … with your experience, an example of integration and mixtures (1), with works all over the world.
– Yes, I thought that too, that I have built myself a shell, that I could only see the concepts – profound, round and many – and stop perceiving the stressful and tiring contingent. I was criticized for Galaxy Soho in Beijing – a work I have been able to embed in the old city structure – or for Haydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, a wonderful gesture democratically thrown in the middle of a soviet neighborhood. The Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Center was accusing me of indifference to the site, saying that it is «a typical example of destroying old Beijing. » I don’t mind these old communists, current ecologists or whatever, but, besides all, fogies. Galaxy Soho was awarded by RIBA anyway, so… About the project in Baku, Azerbaijan, was said that’s a trophy created for a corrupt regime, which ignores human rights, destroys houses and banishes people to make room for megalomaniac projects. It was also said that it’s a mausoleum built by the son – President Ilham Aliyev – to honor his father, the former president Heydar Aliyev. I don’t care, just like Sir Peter Cook doesn’t care (2), who praises both Aliyev and me. To read … 12 pages only about me, can you imagine! But it looks like some Japanese people – led by rewarded architects like you or like me – have managed to ruin my inner balance. This I can’t understand… I used to think that Pritzker hawks do not pick other Pritzker hawks’ eyes out. I am talking about Fumihiko Maki and Toyo Ito, who are up against my project for the Tokyo National Arena. I really do not know what to believe! The Tokyo National Arena is similar to all my previous projects, with complicated shapes, but they are all so soft, dynamic, hovering and grounding themselves all over the world, with the greatest nonchalance there is. They are authentic jewels, with no scale and with no context to affect them. It’s true that most of them are very large – these days, we only do hundreds of thousands of square meters – but I imagine them small at first, like some decorations that can be placed on a chimney, a showcase of china, a library shelf. They can also be armchairs and purses and toys and, sometimes, even bowls. Or one can imagine them as a side object, like a key-chain, just like the ones with the Eiffel Tower, or imprinted on a T-shirt or a mug… they are so beautiful! And ten times more profitable, you see!
– Yes, you are right, it’s true that your buildings – just like many of my own, for that matter – have no scale, they are like precious stones, reducible in a click of a mouse, and, so small and pretty, when molded in silver or gold, they can really become earrings or pendants. And even embedded with diamonds they might be cheaper than the buildings themselves. Ha, ha, ha! Well, let’s go back to the Tokyo Arena! You know very well that beyond any apparent anarchy – perceived this way by us, students raised at the Western rationalism school – the Extreme Oriental space is subtly determined by the existence of emptiness, the presence of physical interstices – mineral, vegetal, liquid and cultural –, ancestral and contemporary. The Japanese people have, too, their arguments: the arena site is part of the Shinto sanctuary’s exterior gardens, raised in the memory of the Emperor Meiji, a green space with 12,000 trees. It is the favorite spot for local strolls, considered the «lung» of a polluted metropolis. And an environmental issue, you see, a matter of sustainability… the global warming… the next generations…
– These theories are overrated, you know. Schumacher, Patrick Schumacher, my alter ego and my muse, or perhaps I am his muse – you know him (he is actually here besides me and wants to say a few words) -. He knows very well what he says when saying that…
[(Patrick speaking) – Hello, Frank! It’s Schumacher, listen to me: her projects are manifestos of a new type of space, the conquest of a previously unimaginable realm of construction freedom. Her projects reflect emerging social demands. For me, for her, for us, the functional optimality is… renounced in favor of the experimental advancement of social practices of potentially higher functionality. Parametricism is the only credible candidate to become the epochal style of the 21st century, the first global style for architecture, urbanism and the design disciplines since the crisis and demise of Modernism 35 years ago, … (3) That’s all I wanted to say! Good bye, Franck, and see you soon…]
– Did you hear, Frank, this is it! It is I, Zaha Hadid, telling you that we are the ones computing, measuring, my intuitions come to life due to simple algorithms generating an extraordinary complexity, which has nothing to do with the place, the person or the budget. It is the absolute freedom, the result of parametric, abstract, pure and out of the context thinking. Pure globalization, powerful, indifferent! I am a creator equal to it, an artist! I am part of the creation of a new planetary, urban and architectural equilibrium! Made only of curves and counter-curves democratically joined! This is exactly what these critics, that can’t part with places, cultures and histories, are unable to understand… after all, I believe they are so much fewer than the 350,450 architects (I don’t really know anymore!) dedicatedly working with me and only for me. Ah, I thought I was understood, I thought…
– Zaha darling, don’t get angry, there are plenty of people absolutely charmed by your work. I heard that architects in your office are traveling the world, holding conferences and creating proselytes… and Patrick also writes, explains, justifies… he also seems manipulative, egocentric, rigid. You must get along well, and that’s important.
– That’s exactly what I meant. We are all doing tremendous efforts to be in the public eye, we design and we build everywhere and for everybody. We are not interested in the context, the purpose, the means or the political regime. We are not reluctant, we don’t judge anyone, neither by morals, ethics or values. I make the show wherever and whenever I am asked to. I make, make, make it everywhere (now don’t you get me wrong here, it’s just a matter of saying), all it takes is money! We have come close to 1,000 projects in nearly 20 years, spread in over 44 countries. I designed a urban planning project for Istanbul (what a beauty, you know how beautifully they paint?!), then I designed a tower in Buchares… or Budapes… (whatever, somewhere in the Eastern Europe, a flat city with some towers, but none of them like mine). Not to mention the Barvicha villa in Moscow, which brought joy to young and old Muscovites equally, I implemented democracy in a Stalinist forest! «It looks like a work of the democratic urban energy», like my friend, Aaron Betsky, used to say. And what beautiful perspectives we offer! They seem fragments from The Avengers or The Transformers! I admit I might be cynical, but I must’ve learned it from Rem Koolhaas. By the way, you know what dear Rem said about me, don’t you: «she is like a planet launched on her own unique orbit!». And now, these Japanese come out of nowhere…, especially Fumihiko Maki. Still, I used to appreciate him, so limited and frozen as he is, from a whole other world, not at all parametric like ours…
– Zaha, please listen to me, I really want to help you with a friendly advice… I designed the Museum in Bilbao, Rem designed Casa da Musica in Porto. You see, in Rome, for Maxxi, you have worked for 12 years, when you were not designing 70 projects each year; and one can see, feel and understand that – just like Rowan Moore very well said (4) – you have created «a modern baroque, in an old city in baroque style, you have created a three-dimensional passegiata, bridging the old city and the contemporary art». So, you actually are able to leave your safety bubble, to look around you at the real space, to have some empathy for the place that is meant to receive your design. In my case, with the Bilbao project I used corrugated titan and glass to suggest an approach to the old industrial site, with the museum’s building like an anchored ship in the Bilbao estuary; from the atrium, a «bridge» crosses the inner space to open up perspectives to the Basque foothills. So, my shape, although apparently random, has plenty of antennas connecting it the local story. In Porto, Rem created a solitary building, dramatically different from the existing Rotunda da Boavista square. But it rethinks the positioning and the classic «shoe box» connection of the concert hall with the public space and urban environment, offering, in the same time, a functional, symbolic, and spatial continuum. Don’t get offended, but Galaxy Soho, Haydar Aliyev Center or the Tokyo National Arena project only tell the story of your love for soft shapes. They are sinuous, imbedded, and overlapped but… Zaha? Hello, are you there? Hello?…
– Yes, Frank, I hear you, but I don’t understand you. Even you… I don’t even know where I am anymore. London, Cincinnati, Saudi Arabia, Changsha in China… I might be in Baghdad for the Parliament and bank’s projects – in the green or the red zone, I don’t even know anymore, concrete walls, barbed wire, armed attempts – or in Abu Dhabi, for Performing Arts Center, big heat, dear, chaos, sand… I am tired, I’ve always been fighting, I’ve won all the awards, I’m a celebrity… and still, not everybody loves me… I thought they all did, I am an artist… big… useless… why?
– Zaha, wait, I think things are much simpler. You forgot that, no matter what you do, the context exists! Remember what Loos said: the architect has a great responsibility towards a community, whilst the artist is only accountable to himself. For my Nove Mesto project in Prague, I walked the town for days, observed the houses and the buildings – their roofs, façades, and decorations – and I believe I managed to accomplish a «gentle» transition from the existing architecture. American Center, in Paris, is an exercise on the Parisian «îlot» theme – in terms of gage, alignment, density; or the Facebook headquarters in Los Angeles – situated in some kind of fallow, along with the salt water collectors – which I also managed to «melt» in the natural surroundings… You have to know what, how much, when, how and where you can joyfully divagate. And with a little bit of humor, just like I do. A project is a project, 1,000 projects are 1,000 projects. And in the end, it’s important to have some fun, because we are way over our heads in the entertainment business. Surely you must’ve read Guy Debord.
– … La Société du Spectacle, I mean, it was published in ’67 or ’68. Hello? Hello?? Zaha???
(long silence again)
– Oh my! Zaha, Zaha, Zaha! I can’t believe this… Say something…
– You know what, Frank?! I remember the Düsseldorf offices – Der Neue Zollhof – 20 years ago. They abandoned my project (too expensive, they said) and so you have «exposed» yourself along the Rhin. I should’ve known right in that moment! You are against me just like the others… And you know what?! I don’t need examples, explanations, theories!! I AM ZAHA, ZAHA HADID!!!
– Yes certainly, my dear Zaha. But… please, I thought that… as friends….
… Beep, beep, beep …
- Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi – British architect, was born in 1950 at Bagdad; she studied at the American University in Beirut and the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. Before starting her own private practice (in London, 1987) she worked with OMA for 10 years. She died in 2016 at Miami.
- «Zaha Hadid à Baku, chapeau!» in: Archicrée no. 366 – June, 2014.
- Excerpts from Patrick Schumacher.com – LECTURES & INTERVIEWS – theorizing architecture, http://www.patrikschumacher.com/Videos/Videos_page.html.
- «Zaha Hadid’s new gallery joins the pantheon of the greats» in The Guardian – June, the 6th 2010.