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Zaha Hadid And The Power Of Experimentation

A retrospective exhibition featuring the works in progress, paintings, drawings and models by the late Zaha Hadid will open doors into the investigative processes that continue to inform the practice today.

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BY janice

June 7th, 2016


Top Image: Hafenstrasse Hamburg, 1989. © Zaha Hadid Architects

During a conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, co-director of the Serpentine Galleries in 2011, the late Zaha Hadid spoke about the power of experimentation, “I know from my experience that without research and experimentation not much can be discovered. With experimentation, you think you’re going to find out one thing, but you actually discover something else.” 

Since the founding of her eponymous studio in 1972, this spirit of discovery and investigation remains unaltered. The mediums might have changed, thanks to major technological advancements, but experimentation remains key to the Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning studio, in which projects are backed by decades of research and exploration spanning fields of urbanism, architecture and design.

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The Peak, Hong Kong, 1982-83. © Zaha Hadid Architects

It makes sense that a tribute to Hadid’s four decades of work in architecture and design will provide an intricate look at her works in progress, including seminal paintings, drawings and models. The exhibition – hosted by cultural institution Fondazione Berengo – will be held at the Palazzo Franchetti in Venice, Italy from 27 May to 27 November 2016, coinciding with the Venice Architectural Biennale 2016.

Works on display go as far back as Malevich’s Tektonic (1976-77), as well as Hadid’s fourth-year project at the Architectural Association School in London that bridged the River Thames. Viewers can also study equally powerful but unrealised projects by the firm, including the Peak Club, Hong Kong (1982-83), Hafenstrasse, Hamburg (1989), and Grand Buildings, Trafalgar Square, London (1985).

The period when the practice participated in multiple competitions, but did not succeed in any were deemed vital by Hadid, who previously said, “Maybe now I would do them differently, but these unrealised projects were at the beginning of our research into that kind of work – and therefore, very important in the development of our repertoire which led to the remarkable projects we build today.”

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Hafenstrasse Hamburg, 1989. © Zaha Hadid Architects

Hadid engaged with Russian avant-garde during the early states of her career, experimenting with compositional techniques spanning fragmentation, layering and porosity, which are common threads in her projects. She described how the early methods that the office adopted to construct drawings and models often led to new discoveries. The whole system of drawing led to ideas, putting one sheet over another and tracing and reworking, like a form of reverse archaeology in a way, leading to a layering process where distortion in the drawing could lead to distortion in the building,” she said.

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The World (89 Degrees), 1983. © Zaha Hadid Architects

Early works aside, the exhibition will also feature recent projects by the practice. Three pinnacle works, the Vitra Fire Station (completed 1993), Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (completed 2003), and MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (completed 2009) will be presented in an individual room. Current works in progress such as the repurposing of a defunct 95-year-old fire station, The Port House in Antwerp (to debut on 22 September) will also be shown.
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Malevich’s Tektonik, London, 1976-77. © Zaha Hadid Architects
A detailed exploration of two work-in-progress projects will outline opportunities presented through Hadid’s educational arm, CODE, which takes on an inter-disciplinary approach to research and development by amassing diverse talents that feed one another.
Complementing the exhibition, Helene Binet’s photographs of Hadid’s projects will also be showcased in their own room. Binet’s ongoing relationship with the practice began in 1992 when she photographed the Vitra Fire Station.
Zaha Hadid passed away on Thursday, 31st March 2016 in Miami, USA.

The Zaha Hadid exhibition at the Palazzo Franchetti Campo Santo Stefano, Venice, Italy will take place from 27 May to 27 November 2016.

Zaha Hadid Architects
zaha-hadid.com