Hafenstrasse development (Hamburg 1989)

Hafenstrasse development (Hamburg, 1989), all drawings by Zaha Hadid – Courtesy of Fondazione Berengo.

Venice 2016Fondazione Berengo hosts an exhibition dedicated to late Zaha Hadid at Palazzo Franchetti on the Grand Canal (Campo Santo Stefano, from the 27th of May to the 27th of November). On show many of the seminal paintings, drawings and models of Hadid’s repertoire, conveying the ingenuity and dynamism of her architectural projects in a variety of media including photography and film.


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Zaha Hadid by Brigitte Lacombe

Zaha Hadid by Brigitte Lacombe.

Zaha Hadid passed away age 65 earlier this year, the Iraqi born and internationally acclaimed architect was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize. Through Hadid’s designs – built, under-construction, in development and unrealised – the exhibition displays the pioneering research and investigation that instigates and defines Zaha Hadid Architects’ work. “Visitors to the exhibition will have a greater understanding the vision of her and her studio” says Adriano Berengo, president of Fondazione Berengo.

Vitra Fire Station - Photo by Christian Richters.

Vitra Fire Station – Photo by Christian Richters.

Hadid directly engaged with the experimentation of the Russian Avant-garde early in her career, exploring the compositional techniques of fragmentation, layering and porosity that transcend all her projects. The exhibition showcases some of the early unrealised projects like the Peak Club in Hong Kong (1982-83), the Grand Buildings in Trafalgar Square, London (1985), and the Cardiff Bay Opera House (1994-95).

The Peak, Hong Kong (1992-3)

The Peak, Hong Kong (unrealized, 1992-93).

We won the competition, then they discarded the result and we had to repeat the competition, which we won again. But then they cancelled the project’s funding. It devastated us, and I had to pick up the pieces!” said Zaha Hadid about the Cardiff Bay Opera House project. “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”.

Cardiff Opera Bay

Cardiff Opera Bay (unrealised, 1994-95).

On show also many drawings that eventually led to iconic designs. “Doing the drawings was a slow process, as they required tremendous concentration and precision. The whole system of drawing led to ideas, putting one sheet over another and tracing and reworking, like a form of reverse archaeology” said Hadid.

Victoria City . Berlin (1988).

Victoria City . Berlin (unrealised, 1988).

The Zaha Hadid exhibition showcases also Malevich’s Tektonic design that was presented for her graduation at the Architectural Association School in London.  The project bridged the River Thames, and the unrealised Victoria City master-plan for Berlin (1988).

Malevich’s Tektonic design (1976-77).

Malevich’s Tektonic design (1976-77).

Three projects representing milestones in Zaha Hadid’s career will also be presented in their own room: the Vitra Fire Station (Weil am Rhein, Germany – 1993), the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (USA – 2003) which led to Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, and the MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (2009) which transcends the periods in which the practice implemented and developed its wide-ranging experimentation with the rapid advancements in computer-aided design.

ZHA, MAXXI Rome (2009) - Photo by Iwan Baan.

ZHA, MAXXI Rome (2009) – Photo by Iwan Baan.

All of Zaha Hadid Architects works in progress will be exhibited, including projects to be completed in the coming year. The Port House in Antwerp that will inaugurate on the 22nd of september 2016 preserves and repurposes an abandoned 95-year-old fire station into a new headquarters for the port, The pioneering Mathematics Gallery at London’s Science Museum that will open in december is defined by mathematical equations that are used to create the 3D curved surfaces representing the airflow patterns that would have streamed around the historic 1929 aircraft at the centre of the exhibition.

Gran Buildings Trafalgar Square (unrealised, 1985).

Gran Buildings Trafalgar Square (unrealised, 1985).

With experimentation, you think you’re going to find out one thing, but you actually discover something else. That’s what I think is really exciting. You discover much more than you bargain for” said once Zaha Hadid. According to that, the exhibition showcases also Hadid’s research and digital development of architecture professionalism through a detailed exploration of two projects currently under construction.

Zaha Hadid Architects - Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, photo by Roland Halbe

Zaha Hadid Architects – Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, photo by Roland Halbe.

ZHA_The World (89 Degrees)

ZHA_The World (89 Degrees).