Architectural pioneers: Celebrating Zaha Hadid
The untimely death, aged 65, of Dame Zaha Hadid robbed the world of its best known and most celebrated and successful female architects. But the British-Iraqi and the team she left behind continue to innovate and make waves more than five years later.
Renowned for such striking developments as the Contemporary Arts Centre in Cincinnati, the Phaeno Science Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany, and the Port Authority Building in Antwerp, Belgium, she is remembered also for those of her designs that proved too much for conventionally-minded commissioning authorities, such as proposals for the Cardiff Bay opera house.
Commemorating this remarkable woman, Modern Art Museum Shanghai (MAM) last month opened the first exhibition of Zaha Hadid Architects in mainland China, ZHA – Close Up. Celebrating this event in London (the city that, since 1980, had been her professional home) was a reception held at the iconic Frederick’s restaurant last week.
Among those present were Shai Baitel, artistic director of the Shanghai museum and no mean innovator in his own right: he previously co-founded Mana Contemporary, one of the largest and most innovative contemporary arts organisations in the United States, and since being appointed to his post at MAM he has worked on high-profile exhibitions, conceiving and realising large-scale experiential productions that incorporate visual content and choreographed performance art, as well as theatre and film.
Patrik Schumacher, principal of Zaha Hadid Architects, was there, and other attendees included Christopher Turner (keeper of graphic art and design, photography and architecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum), Eleanor Mills (Fleet Street media legend), Lucy Denyer (associate editor of The Telegraph Magazine), Stafford Critchlow (director and owner of Wilkinson Eyre Architects, which has twice won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stirling Prize – as did Dame Zaha in 2010 and 2011), Stuart Blakley (feature writer and photographer specialising in the arts and architecture), and Eilish McGuiness (an executive at the National Lottery Heritage Fund and previously an inspector of buildings with Historic Scotland).
Guests were invited to enjoy a special cake, baked for the occasion and based on the design of a ZHA building; fittingly, it featured striking angles and juxtaposed materials.
This lunch was the final event to mark the opening of the exhibition, completing a transatlantic trio of remote launches. Last month, two separate remote celebrations where held in the High Line Building in New York City and One Thousand Museum’s Sky Lounge in Miami – both of which were designed by the legendary architect. VIP guests were exclusively shown a live-stream video of the exhibition beaming in straight from the Shanghai opening, meaning that guests felt as if they are visiting the exhibition in person, despite being on the other side of the world.
As mentioned earlier, Dame Zaha retains the capacity to surprise, even now. Whispers at the reception suggested that, even five years after death, she is branching out into a quite different line of work. Those present were given exclusively a very limited edition ZHA fragrance. Before her death, she had designed a number of spectacular bottles ideally suited for perfume, which draws heavily on both her British and Middle Eastern backgrounds.
Rumours suggested it may be launched as a high-end, luxury fragrance by the end of the year. What other treats, we wonder, has she left for us?
The editorial unit
ZHD: Close Up is at MAM Shanghai from the 26th June to 15th September. For further information about upcoming exhibitions and instalments, as well as admission times and ticket prices, visit the museum’s website.