HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTER DESIGN BY ZAHA HADID
HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTER DESIGN BY ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS
Text by Saffet Kaya Bekiroglu, Project Designer and Architect, Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid Architects was appointed as design architects of the Heydar Aliyev Center following a competition in 2007. The Center, designed to become the primary building for the nation’s cultural programs, breaks from the rigid and often monumental Soviet architecture that is so prevalent in Baku, aspiring instead to express the sensibilities of Azeri culture and the optimism of a nation that looks to the future.
The design of the Heydar Aliyev Center establishes a continuous, fluid relationship between its surrounding plaza and the building’s interior. The plaza, as the ground surface; accessible to all as part of Baku’s urban fabric, rises to envelop an equally public interior space and define a sequence of event spaces dedicated to the collective celebration of contemporary and traditional Azeri culture. Elaborate formations such as undulations, bifurcations, folds, and inflections modify this plaza surface into an architectural landscape that performs a multitude of functions: welcoming, embracing, and directing visitors through different levels of the interior. With this gesture, the building blurs the conventional differentiation between architectural object and urban landscape, building envelope and urban plaza, figure and ground, interior and exterior.
Fluidity in architecture is not new to this region. In historical Islamic architecture, rows, grids, or sequences of columns flow to infinity like trees in a forest, establishing non-hierarchical space. Continuous calligraphic and ornamental patterns flow from carpets to walls, walls to ceilings, ceilings to domes, establishing seamless relationships and blurring distinctions between architectural elements and the ground they inhabit. Our intention was to relate to that historical understanding of architecture, not through the use of mimicry or a limiting adherence to the iconography of the past, but rather by developing a firmly contemporary interpretation, reflecting a more nuanced understanding.
Responding to the topographic sheer drop that formerly split the site in two, the project introduces a precisely terraced landscape that establishes alternative connections and routes between public plaza, building, and underground parking. This solution avoids additional excavation and landfill, and successfully converts an initial disadvantage of the site into a key design feature.
GEOMETRY, STRUCTURE, MATERIALITY
One of the most critical yet challenging elements of the project was the architectural development of the building’s skin. Our ambition to achieve a surface so continuous that it appears homogenous, required a broad range of different functions, construction logics and technical systems had to be brought together and integrated into the building’s envelope. Advanced computing allowed for the continuous control and communication of these complexities among the numerous project participants.
The Heydar Aliyev Center principally consists of two collaborating systems: a concrete structure combined with a space frame system. In order to achieve large-scale column-free spaces that allow the visitor to experience the fluidity of the interior, vertical structural elements are absorbed by the envelope and curtain wall system. The particular surface geometry fosters unconventional structural solutions, such as the introduction of curved ‘boot columns’ to achieve the inverse peel of the surface from the ground to the West of the building, and the ‘dovetail’ tapering of the cantilever beams that support the building envelope to the East of the site.
The space frame system enabled the construction of a free-form structure and saved significant time throughout the construction process, while the substructure was developed to incorporate a flexible relationship between the rigid grid of the space frame and the free-formed exterior cladding seams. These seams were derived from a process of rationalizing the complex geometry, usage, and aesthetics of the project. Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) and Glass Fibre Reinforced Polyester (GFRP) were chosen as ideal cladding materials, as they allow for the powerful plasticity of the building’s design while responding to very different functional demands related to a variety of situations: plaza, transitional zones and envelope.
In this architectural composition, if the surface is the music, then the seams between the panels are the rhythm. Numerous studies were carried out on the surface geometry to rationalize the panels while maintaining continuity throughout the building and landscape. The seams promote a greater understanding of the project’s scale. They emphasize the continual transformation and implied motion of its fluid geometry, offering a pragmatic solution to practical construction issues such as manufacturing, handling, transportation and assembly; and answering technical concerns such as accommodating movement due to deflection, external loads, temperature change, seismic activity and wind loading.
To emphasize the continuous relationship between the building’s exterior and interior, the lighting of the Heydar Aliyev Center has been very carefully considered. The lighting design strategy differentiates the day and night reading of the building. During the day, the building’s volume reflects light, constantly altering the Center’s appearance according to the time of day and viewing perspective. The use of semi-reflective glass gives tantalizing glimpses within, arousing curiosity without revealing the fluid trajectory of spaces inside. At night, this character is gradually transformed by means of lighting that washes from the interior onto the exterior surfaces, unfolding the formal composition to reveal its content and maintaining the fluidity between interior and exterior.
As with all of our work, the Heydar Aliyev Center’s design evolved from our investigations and research of the site’s topography and the Center’s role within its broader cultural landscape. By employing these articulate relationships, the design is embedded within this context; unfolding the future cultural possibilities for the nation.
Zaha Hadid, founder of Zaha Hadid Architects, was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize ( considered to be the Nobel Prize of architecture) in 2004 and is internationally known for both her theoretical and academic work. Each of her dynamic and innovative projects builds on over thirty years of revolutionary exploration and research in the interrelated fields of urbanism, architecture and design. Hadid’ s interest lies in the rigorous interface between architecture, landscape and geology as her practice integrates natural topography and human – made systems , leading to experimentation with cutting – edge Technologies. Such a process often results in unexpected and dynamic architectural forms.
Hadid studied architecture at he Architectural Association from 1972 and was awarded the Diploma Prize in 1977.
She became a partner of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, taught at the AA with OMA collaborators Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis, and later led her own studio at the AA until 1987. Since then she has held the Kenzo Tange Chair at the Graduate School of Design, Harward University; The Sullivan Chair at the University Illinois, School of Architecture, Chicago; guest professorsships at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg; The Knolton School of Architecture, Ohio and the Masters Studio at Columbia University, Newyork. In addition, she was made Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture and Commander of the British Empire, 2002. She is currently Professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, Austria and was the Eero saarinen Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Zaha Hadid’ s work of the past 30 years was the subject of critically – acclaimed retrospective exhibitions at New York’ s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2006, London Design museum in 2007 and the Palazzo della Ragione, Padua, Italy in 2009. Her recently completed projects include the MAXXI Museum in Rome; which won the Stirling award in 2010. Hadid’ s outstanding contribution to the Stirling award in 2010. Hadid’ s outstanding contribution to the architectural profession continues to be acknowledged by the most world’ s most respected institutions. She received the prestigious ‘ Praemium Imperiale ’ from the Japan Art Association in 2009, and in 2010, the Stirling Prize from the Royal Institute of British Architects. Other recent awards include UNESCO naming Hadid as an ‘ Artist for Peace ‘ at a ceremony in their Paris headquarters last year. Also in 2010, the Republic of France named Hadid as ‘ Commandeur de l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres’ in recognition of her services to architecture, and TIME magazine included her in their 2010 list of the ‘ 100 most Influential People in the World ‘. This years ‘ Time 100 ‘ is divided into four categories: Leaders, Thinkers, Artist and Hereos – with Hadid ranking top of the Thinkers category.
Zaha has played a pivotal role in a great many Zaha Hadid Architects projects over the past 30 years. The Maxxi National Museum of 21 st Century Arts in Rome, Italy; the BMW Central Building in Leipzig, Germany and the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany are excellent demonstrations of Hadid’ s quest for complex, fluid space. Previous seminal buildings such as the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinati, USA, have also been hailed as architecture that transforms our vision of the future with new spatial concepts and bold, visionary forms.
Currently Hadid is working on a multitude of projects worldwide including: The London Aquatics Centre fort he 2012 Olympic Games; High – Speed Train Stations in Naples and Durango; The CMA CGM Headquarters tower in Marseille; The Fiera di Milano masterplan and tower as well as major master planning projects in Beijing, Bilboa, Istanbul and Singapore. In the Middle East, Hadid’ s portfolio includes national cultural and research centres in Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, as well as the new Central Bank of Iraq.
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