This short book documents the many conversations between Pritzker prize winner Zaha Hadid and world renowned art curator: Hans-Ulrich Obrist with occasional interjections by Rem Koolhaas. The rich exchange that unraveled throughout the years is one of questioning and indagation about her projects and career decisions: at times a simple glimpse to the logistics of Zaha’s architectural office, and at other times, a profound personal story of struggle, disappointment and loss.
There are certain architects that await long periods of time trying to break out into the scene by means of building something meaningful and acquire international success solely through their oeuvre, Zaha’s career and its development is the quintessential example of this struggle. An immigrant in a foreign land trying to connect with the discipline through her talent.
“The only way for people like myself to connect to other things – since I had no network, no country – was through the material itself.” - Zaha Hadid
One quickly recognizes how some of the interviews are facilitated by Hans Ulrich’s complete knowledge of the art world, this book provides a guide on how to interview your subject by weaving seemingly unrelated ideas on a continuous timeline of art, exhibition design and architecture as parallel yet relatable media.
In this book, many mentions are given towards a period where pure research and long-hour shifts were the main drivers in her office rather than the built projects and international commissions that later she would be famous for (a classical cliché of impetus without reward often seen on this discipline) therein lies the transition that started to be revealed by Rem in the Marathon Interview by saying: “from an almost miniaturist to a kind of hyper-modern and contemporary organization”. The question that went unanswered was how ZHA went from a small practice without much recognition to an ever-growing enterprise without that losing the closeness that Zaha held with her work as well as her inclination on certain types of media (large-format paintings, recognizable graphic spaces, and intimate fluid lines.)
“During the days and years we were locked up in Bowling Green with nobody paying attention to us, we all did an enormous amount of research” - Zaha Hadid
Another way of asking would be: when did her signature become a generic diagram? In an era where clients can demand of you the simplest of things yet the most difficult, i.e. to repeat successful projects in different contexts or the repetition of icons in different idiosyncratic /semiotic cultures; This is the feeling one gets by reading Zaha, the re-usage of their ideas such as: social complexity, space layering, interior urban condition, ground preparation, topographical landscape, space as a field condition that were developed in the lost projects such as Zollhof Media Park in Dusseldorf, the Peak in Hong Kong, the Opera-house in Cardiff, Reina Sofia museum extension Madrid and the Library in Quebec are all relived and finally executed in Wolfsburg with the Phaeno Science Centre, in Rome with the MAXXI Museum and in Leipzig with the B.M.W. central building plant. That is ultimately the main contribution from this book, in a discipline where iconicity and novelty are placed atop implementation, the reuse of design ideas and design processes might be an alternative model and a more sustainable approach for all those lost competitions and unfinished projects filling endless webpages around the world.
“On the other hand, the years of endless work without winning a single competition gave us an incredible opportunity, providing us with an enormous repertoire that allowed us to invent.” - Zaha Hadid