10 Zaha Hadid Buildings We Adore

August 3, 2020

An Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid left an indelible mark on the landscape of architecture. Her distinct architectural style has been acclaimed internationally, earning her a myriad of prestigious awards for architecture - in 2004 Hadid was the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Prize; in 2010 and 2011 she received the Stirling Prize, a British decoration for excellence in architecture; in 2014 her Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre won the Design Museum Design of the Year Award; and in 2016 she became the first woman to win the RIBA Gold Medal.

Among the greatest innovators in the field, Zaha Hadid became celebrated for intensely futuristic architecture characterized by curving façades, sharp angles, and severe materials such as concrete and steel. Turning architectural convention on its head, the architect took the strongest materials in the world and manipulated them to form objects that appear soft and sturdy at the same time.

Known as the “queen of curves,” Zaha Hadid is well-known for buildings that use geometric shapes to create dynamic, fluid architecture characterized by forms that seem to evolve, continuously varying. This progressive architectural vision laid the groundwork for a new avant-garde style, allowing for more variable and interconnected forms of contemporary architecture.

Founded in 1979, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has continued to rise in prominence in the years since her passing. Now led by creative partner Patrik Schumacher, ZHA is focused on building out Hadid’s legacy, including a collection of buildings headed to London, Mexico City, Milan (already completed), and Beijing, among other global locales.

Here are some of the best examples of Zaha Hadid buildings.

Featured image: Riverside Museum, via Neil Williamson.

Heydar Aliyev Center

Designed to become the primary building for the nation’s cultural programs, the Heydar Aliyev Center in breaks from the rigid and often monumental Soviet architecture that is so prevalent in the city. A 619,000 sq ft building complex opened in 2012, the design is characterized by a fluid form which emerges by the folding of the landscape's natural topography and by the wrapping of individual functions of the Center.

Hadid created a continuous, fluid relationship between its surrounding plaza and the building’s interior, while the elaborate formations such as undulations, bifurcations, folds, and inflections modify the plaza surface into an architectural landscape that performs a multitude of functions. A signature landmark of modern Baku, the center accommodates a 1000-seat auditorium, temporary exhibition spaces, a conference center, workshops, and a museum.

Featured image: Heydar Aliyev Center, via Istvan.

Galaxy SOHO

An urban complex building located in Beijing, China, Galaxy SOHO is comprised of four continuous, flowing volumes that coalesce to create an internal world of continuous open spaces. Built between 2008 and 2014, it covers an area of 330,000 m2, offering shops, offices and entertainment facilities.

A curvilinear design consisting of four asymmetric continuous structures, Galaxy SOHO was inspired by classical Chinese courtyards. Four structures are fused together by bridges and platforms between curving floor plates, forming a series of public courtyards and a larger central "canyon". The design has no corners or abrupt transitions that break the fluidity of its formal composition, while interior spaces follow the same coherent formal logic of continuous curve linearity.

Featured image: Galaxy SOHO, via Wikipedia.

Vitra Fire Station

Designed for the factory complex of the same name in Weil-am-Rhein, Germany, the Vitra Fire Station was one of the first of Zaha Hadid design projects to be built. It is comprised of obliquely intersecting concrete planes, housing factories, showrooms, and the Vitra Design Museum.

Cast in concrete on site as a long, linear, narrow building, it has the effect of a frozen explosion. It consists of spaces for fire engines, showers and changing rooms for the firemen as well as a conference room and a kitchenette. Defining rather than occupying space, it is an alert structure, ready to explode into action at any moment.

Featured image: Vitra Fire Station, via Wojtek Gurak.

Guangzhou Opera House

Completed in 2010 in Guangzhou, China, the Guangzhou Opera House is shaped to resemble two pebbles on the bank of the Pearl River. Sitting in perfect harmony with its riverside location, it houses a 1,800-seat theatre plus 400-seat multifunctional hall, rehearsal rooms and entrance hall.

The biggest performing centre in southern China and is one of the three biggest theaters in the nation, Guangzhou Opera House's design is based on the principles of topography and geology, creating an interrelation between the natural landscape and architecture. The exterior appears as twin boulders taken from the river bed and smoothed by erosion in a stream, while the interior was mainly inspired by the river valleys transformed by erosion.

Featured image: Guangzhou Opera House, via Wikipedia.

Riverside Museum

An iconic building by Zaha Hadid and the most visited transport museum in the United Kingdom,the Riverside Museum was built within the site of a former shipyard as a part of the larger Glasgow Harbor urban regeneration project. A fluid and dynamic building, it has 7,000 sqm of exhibition area, alongside cafe, retail and education spaces within its program.

Hadid described the design as flowing "from city to waterfront, symbolizing the dynamic relationship between Glasgow and the ship-building, seafaring and industrial legacy of the river Clyde." The building zig-zags back across its site from this pointy roofline in folds clad with patinated zinc panels, actively encouraging connectivity between the exhibits and the wider environment.

Featured image: Riverside Museum, via Wikipedia.

London Aquatics Center

Originally designed by Zaha Hadid in 2004, the London Aquatics Center is inspired by the fluid geometries of water in motion. It is covered by an undulating roof that sweeps up from the ground like a wave. The roof encloses three pools, all aligned on an orthogonal axis that is perpendicular to the Stratford City Bridge.

The Center features a total of 628 impressive panes of glass and 8 external doors, allowing lots of natural light into the pool. Sensual in its form with a generosity of space, it is designed with inherent flexibility to accommodate 17,500 spectators for the London 2012 Games while also providing the optimum spectator capacity of 2000 for use after the Games.

Featured image: London Aquatics Center, via Wikipedia.

Bridge Pavilion

Constructed for the Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain as one of its main landmarks, the Bridge Pavilion is an innovative 280-meter-long covered bridge that imitates a gladiola over the river Ebro. It also functions as a multi-level exhibition area, frequented by 10,000 visitors per hour during world exhibition.

The structure is enveloped by 29,000 triangles of fiberglass-reinforced concrete in different shades of grey. Organized around four main objects, its design stems from the detailed examination and research into the potential of a diamond-shaped section, offering both structural and programming properties. The center of the bridge rests on a small island in the middle of the river, that together with the interconnecting pods replace the typical triangular truss system, help brace and distribute the weight of the 7,000-ton bridge evenly.

Featured image: Bridge Pavilion, via Jordi Payà Canals.

Port Authority Building

Built between 2009 and 2016, Zaha Hadid's Port Authority Building is a government building located in Antwerp, Belgium that houses various departments. The lower section of the building was a disused fire station, and a protected replica of a former Hanseatic house. Since it could not be demolished, the fire station had to be integrated into the new project.

Located directly above the renovated fire station, the expansion of the building is covered with a glass facade that reflects the complex interaction of shades and colors in the air. Evoking a hull of a sailing ship with the surface of the facets of a diamond, it both references the building's location surrounded by water and the city's association with the diamond industry.

Featured image: Port Authority Building, via Bobo Boom.

520 West 28th Street

Located in New York, the 520 West 28th Street is Hadid's only residential building in the city. The split design defines varied living spaces and echoes the multiple layers of civic space on 28th Street and the High Line. It features her signature curvilinear geometric motifs and is covered with a hand-crafted steel façade which carries the spirit of Chelsea’s industrial past.

The 11-storey building houses 39 residences with 11-foot coffered ceilings, tailored interiors that incorporate Boffi kitchens and integrated technologies including automated valet parking and storage. A building with its own architectural presence, yet very much of its surroundings, it embodies a commitment to uphold the distinctive character of its neighborhood.

Featured image: 520 West 28th Street, via Maciek Lulko.

One Thousand Museum

Zaha Hadid's first residential tower in the Western Hemisphere and one of her final designs, the One Thousand Museum in Miami, Florida was completed by the Project Director of Zaha Hadid Architects, Chris Lepine, after her death. With 62 stories, it is the highest building in Miami.

The building is characterized by a curving exoskeleton with 5,000 columns finished with glass fiber reinforced concrete. Described as "one of the most complex skyscrapers ever to make it off the drawing board," it contains 84 residences, consisting of a two-story duplex penthouse, 4 townhouses, 10 full-floor residences, and 70 half-floor units.

Featured image: One Thousand Museum in Miami, via Phillip Pessar.

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