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ZAHA HADID

"Gravity-defying",
"fragmentary" and
"revolutionary" are a few
of the words used to
describe Zaha Hadid's
architectural designs. The
Iraqi-born, London-based
architect has stirred up
continual controversy with
her designs that defy a
label in the Modern vs.
Post-Modern architectural
debate. In the past 15
years, she has gone from
unknown student to
"architecture's new diva"
as the title of the January
1996 Architectural
DigestUs profile
suggested. Her work has
been accepted as a
significant contribution to
architecture and her style
is one that other
architects now emulate.

These characteristics
might serve to qualify her
under Howard Gardner's
definition of creativity.
"The creative individual is
a person who regularly
solves problems, fashions
products, or defines new
questions in a domain in a
way that is initially
considered novel but that
ultimately becomes
accepted in a particular
cultural setting." (Gardner
1993)


Zaha Hadid has been a persistent radical in the field of architectural
experimentation for the last 20 years. The importance of her contribution to
the culture of architecture lies primarily in a series of momentous
expansions - as influential as radical - in the repertoire of spatial articulation
available to architects today. These conquests for the design resources of
the discipline include representational devices, graphic manipulations,
compositional manoeuvres, spatial concepts, typological inventions and
(beyond the supposed remit of the discipline proper) the suggestion of new
modes or patterns of inhabitation. This list of contributions describes a
causal chain that significantly moves from the superficial to the substantial
and thus reverses the order of ends vs. means assumed in normative
models of rationality. The project starts as a shot into the dark, spreading its
trajectories, and assuming its target in midcourse. The point of departure is
the assumption of a new medium (multi perspective projection) which
allows for certain graphic operations (multiple, over-determining distortions)
which then are made operative as compositional transformations
(fragmentation and deformation) leading to a new concept of space
(magnetic field space, particle space, distorted space) which suggests a
new phenomenology, navigation and inhabitation of space no longer
oriented along prominent figures, axis, edges and clearly bounded realms.
Instead the distribution of densities, directional bias, scalar grains and
gradient vectors of transformation constitute the new ontology defining what
it means to be somewhere


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Architecture was the re-presentation of a fixed set of minutely determined typologies and complete tectonic systems.
Against this backdrop abstraction meant the possibility and challenge of free creation. The canvas became the field of an
original construction. The introduction of categories such as "manifesto", "the discipline of architecture " and "oeuvre"
suspends but does not cancel or deny concerns of utility. These categories are not set absolute, autonomous and forever
aloof from the functional concerns of society. Rather the concrete uses and users are bracketed for the sake of
experimenting with new, potentially general sable principles of spatial organization and articulation with respect to
emerging social demands and use patterns. Functional optimality according to well corroborated criteria is thus
renunciated for the experimental advancement of social practices of potentially higher functionality. The very nature of the
kind of iconoclastic research of "the avant garde" is that it thrusts itself into the unknown and offers its challenging
proposals to the collective process of experimentation in a raw state rather than waiting until the full cycle of
experimentation, variation, selection, optimization and refinement is complete and ready to present secure and polished
results.

Despite the often precarious status of its partial and preliminary results I will argue that this radicalism constitutes a form
of research; an unorthodox research in as much as it's methods include intuitive groping, randomization and automatic
formal processes, i.e. the temporary relaxation and even suspension of rational criteria.

RESOURCES OF THE RADICAL IMAGINATION

Creative Revivalism
It is no accident hat the New in the arts always announces itself in the guise of a revival. Hadid's career starts with the
reinterpretation of Malevitch's tectonics. Her early work has indeed been (mis-)understood as Neo-constructivism. Also
one might recount how Peter Eisenman takes off from the early Le Corbusier. Revivalist appropriation is the easiest and
most immediate option to articulate dissatisfaction and resistance towards a dominant practise. But this has nothing to do
with repetition. For instance, to pick up the unfinished project of modernism on the back of post-modernism can not be a
simple re-enactment, even if one initially works with literal citations. For a culture which reflects its own history, this history
can never be circular. Although there have been attempts to write a circular, discursively the second time can never be
the same. Also: what usually follows on from the second time clearly reveals its irreducible newness. Revivalism - the
hurling back in front of what was left behind - has been a pervasive and effective mechanism in the production of the New.
The re-introduction of formal systems leads inevitably to over-determination, distortion and transformation.

Re- combination: Collage and Hybridisation
The second mechanism that has to be mentioned here is the dialectic of re-combination and hybridisation. The important
reminder here is that the result of combination is rarely just a predictable compromise. Synenergies might be harnessed:
Unpredictable operational effects might emerge and, on the side of meaning, affects are engendered as the whole
taxonomy of differences is forced into an unpredictable realignment. The new combination re-contextualises and
reinterprets its ingredients as well as its surroundings.

Abstraction
Abstraction implies the avoidance of familiar, ready-made typologies. Instead of taking for granted things like houses,
rooms, windows, roofs etc. Hadid reconstitutes the functions of territorialisation, enclosure and interfacing etc. by means
of boundaries, fields, planes, volumes, cuts, ribbons etc. The creative freedom of this approach is due to the open-
endedness of the compositional configurations as well as the open-endedness of the list of abstract entities that enter into
the composition. (To maintain the spirit of abstraction in the final building a defamiliarising, "minimalist" detailing is
avoiding that cuts turn into windows again.)

Analogies
Analogies are fantastic engines of invention with respect to organisational diagrammes, formal languages and tectonic
systems. They have nothing to do with allegory or semantics in general. Hadid's preferred source realm of analogical
transference is the inexhaustible realm of landscape formations: forests, canyons, river deltas, dunes, glaciers/moraines,
faulted geological strata, lava flows etc. Beyond such specific formations abstract formal characteristics of landscape in
general are brought into the ambit of architectural articulation. The notion of an artificial landscape has been a pervasive
working hypothesis within Hadid's oeuvre from the Hong Kong Peak onwards. Artificial landscapes are coherent spatial
systems. They reject platonic exactitude but they are not just any "freeform". They have their peculiar lawfulness. They
operate via gradients rather than hard edge delineation. They proliferate infinite variations rather than operating via the
repetition of discrete types. They are indeterminate and leave room for active interpretation on the part of the inhabitants.
Another source realm is food stuffs: sandwiches, melted cheese, chewing gum, papadams, spaghetti. Ultimately anything
could serve as analogical inspiration. Often such analogies become to be considered as the concept of the project: The

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Cardiff Opera House as an inverted necklace, the Copenhagen Concert Hall as a block of terrazzo, the Victoria and Albert
Museum extension as 3D TV, i.e. a three-dimensional pixelation etc.

Surrealist mechanisms
One of the most significant and momentous features of architectural avant-garde of the last 15 years is the proliferation of
representational media and design processes and the attendant theoretical reflection on those media and processes.
Hadid's audacious move to translate the dynamism and fluidity of her calligraphic hand directly into equally fluid tectonic
systems, her incredible move from isometric and perspective projection to literal distortions of space, from the exploded
axonometry to the literal explosion of space into fragments, from the superimposition of various fisheye perspectives to
the literal bending and melt down of space etc. - all these moves must initially appear rampantly illogical, akin to the
operations of the surrealists. But then these strange moves - once taken seriously within the context of developing an
architectural project - turn out to be powerful compositional options when faced with the task of articulating complex
programmes. The dynamic streams of movements within a complex structure can now be made legible as the most fluid
regions within the structure; overall trapezoidal distortions offer one more way to respond to non-orthogonal sites;
perspective distortions allow the orientation of elements to various functional focal points etc. What once was an
outrageous violation of logic has become part of a strategically deployed repertoire of nuanced spatial organisation and
articulation.

The initially "mindless" sketching of graphic textures in endless iterations operates like an "abstract machine" proliferating
difference to select from. Once a strange texture or figure is selected and confronted with a programmatic agenda a
peculiar form-content dialectic is engendered. An active figure-reading mind will find the desired conditions but equally
new desires and functions are inspired by the encounter with the strange configuration. The radically irrational and
arbitrary detour ends up hitting a target. This "miracle" can be explained by recognizing that all functionality is relative, that
all well articulated organisms have once been monstrous aberrations and still are such - relative to other "higher" and
more "beautiful" organisations.

Harnessing the power of chance
More and more it seems to become an urgency to incorporate the category of random accidents and chance mutations
into our theories of innovation and progress, even though these terms - randomness and progress - have hitherto been
absolutely anti-thetical. Randomness seems to be the absolute antithesis of any notion of strategic conduct or rationality.

Form-generating aleatoric processes involve the radical suspension of everything usually associated with "design" as
deliberate purpose-lead activity, directed to solve well-defined problems according to known and explicit criteria. In the
aleatoric design method the formal process is running ahead and a meaning and programme is read into it a posteriori,
allowing for an innovative (re-)alignment of both new form and new function. The aleatoric "play" is an instrument of
intelligence, not its negation or substitute. As in biological evolution, the necessary condition for the ability to harness
chance for the purposes of innovation is reproduction, i.e. the ability to reproduce an initially unintended and uncontrolled
effect. The machinic process becomes domesticated and human. What was play has become method.

"Playfulness is the deliberate, temporary relaxation of rules in order to explore the possibilities of alternative rules. When
we are playful we challenge the necessity of consistency. In effect, we announce - in advance - our rejection of usual
objections to behaviour that does not fit the standard model of intelligence. Playfulness allows experimentation. At the
same time, it acknowledges reason. It accepts that at one point ... it will be integrated into the structure of intelligence. ...
tolerant of the idea that he will discover the meaning of yesterday's action in the experiences and interpretations of
today."(4) Such reasoning might grant us some breathing space for experimentation not only on the drawing board, but
also - within certain limits - with the building itself. Who is to judge and deny a priori that a strange building will not attract
and engender a strangely productive occupation.



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INFLUENCES (People and Styles)
After receiving her Diploma
Prize in 1977 from the Architectural
Association, Hadid went to work with
one of her tutors, Rem Koolhaus, at
OMA, Office of Modern Architecture.
This relationship soon became too
restrictive for Hadid, although she
and Koolhaus remained close
friends. Hadid remarked:
"My relation with OMA is
more fundamental than working with
them. There is almost a kind of non-
visible dialogue between us... they
supported me a lot when I was no
question about that."
Koolhaus served as a mentor
and friend to Hadid during the time of
her first breakthrough. As her former
tutor at the Architectural Association,
he could understand her work and
the ideas that she was trying to
convey. She obviously respects his
opinion and values his friendship.


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CHILD-LIKE MIND

I propose that the
pedagogy at the
Architectural
Association provided
the freedom for Zaha
Hadid to explore
issues that reflect a
child-like mind. A main
theme of Hadid's
designs exhibits that a
building can float and
defy gravity. This
attitude is reminiscent
of a child's drawings
before someone
forces the concept of
gravity upon them.
The idea of defying
gravity does not come
from flying in the air,
but from being freed
from confining laws
and conventions and
making a new kind of
space; consequently,
answering a child's
question in an adult
manner.

Hadid also fits into the
child-like character of
geniuses in other
ways some critics say.
She has a tendency to
portray a haughty
attitude toward clients
and the general public
and her new style of
painting (which I
discuss under
Domain) fails to help
viewers interpret her
ideas. (Vine 1995)

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MARGINALITY

Another issue that separated Zaha Hadid from even other AA students
was her non-Western European background. Hadid comments,
"I think being a foreigner in London in the seventies was also a very
interesting period because it was after the sixty-eight revolution, people
were much more liberal. They did not equate ideas to making money. This
notion of displacement, being displaced is a very liberated experience.
More and more because I was a woman, non-British and it kind of
confused the people there. The more became confused about me the
more they left me alone." (Hadid 1995)

The rejection of Hadid's design
brings up an interesting aspect of
Gardner's definition of creativity
which specified that it must be within
a specific culture. Who defines if a
culture accepts an idea and what
defines the limits of a culture?
Would the British culture which
differs from the more accepting
German culture define the
architectural profession's opinion of
Hadid's work? In Japan, they are
also more enthusiastic about
Hadid's designs. Mario Botta
commented, "she joins the trend of
spectacular hypertechnological
architecture which represents the
common denominator of the latest
events on this Asian archipelago."
Hadid's marginality leads to a
characteristic that distinguishes her
from others. Hadid proposes,
"Because I am a non-European I
have a different system of thinking,
my order is different.
Deconstructionism and the
structuralist theories are based on
theories which were so-called
rationalist, one way of doing things. I
don't belong to that tradition. I
belong to a tradition which already
has a different order. They are
called more emotional, intuitive, but
intuitive is not instinctive. Intuitive is
the marriage of rationalism and
experience."