Zaha Hadid

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[caption id="attachment_1591" align="alignnone" width="577"]Retail and entertainment spaces on the first three floors are framed by flowing structures and linking bridges overhead[/caption]

Guangzhou Opera House, Innovation Tower & Galaxy SoHo


Throughout her early career as an architect, Zaha Hadid has established a daring design vocabulary that has further blossomed  since her 2004 Pritzker Prize win. As the first woman architect recipient of architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize, her particular talents have found a niche in China, which, along with Dubai, has become one of the new frontiers for architects, a laboratory for fresh design.

“Our clients in China are increasingly calling for innovation,” says Hadid, director of Zaha Hadid Architects. “China’s rapid development over the past few decades has allowed some of our most pioneering—and therefore most challenging—opportunities to develop and test our design repertoire, intelligence, and creativity.”

Creating a new national identity is a byproduct of China’s growing economic prowess. It has been said that every great metropolis is defined by its significant architecture. China’s cities seem to be no exception.

Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House in Guangzhou, China anchors a site designated as the city’s cultural center. Hadid’s design suggests twin boulders that overlook the river and dock areas, creating a pleasing dialog between the building and its surroundings. The Opera House’s windows encourage dramatic shifts of natural and artificial light, while the play between the shadows and the glass skin suggests musical vibrations and rhythms. Like Frank Gehry’s Disney Music Hall, the architecture reveals its purpose through clever abstraction.

Zaha Hadid. Photo by Steve Double.
“It’s not so much that we are saying the Opera House looks like pebbles [or rocks], but we are not shy to use this analogy, as it helps to launch this project in the consciousness of the local Chinese culture in an effort to mediate what is otherwise completely abstract,” explains Hadid.

Another Hadid project, Innovation Tower on the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, is a work in progress, scheduled for completion in 2011. There, dual ground-level escalators transport visitors to a second-story entrance that swallows them up like the mouth of a space ship. In profile, the structure is a stylish mound of irregularly stacked and shaped plates. Hadid brings lightness and bold aesthetics to a mass of steel and glass that will house and inspire more than 1,500 design students.

In Beijing, the construction on Hadid’s Galaxy Soho retail and entertainment complex has just begun. It’s another example of what Hadid calls “seamless fluidity.” “Rapid developments in design and construction technologies have enabled more complex, fluid, organic geometries,” she notes. From the air, the complex is a loose grouping of hollow, sensual spheres. The openings in the ceilings act as natural skylights for courtyards, a throwback to traditional Chinese architectural concepts in which intimate, open spaces improve social gatherings and conversation.