Zaha Hadid’s work celebrated with her own museum in Denmark

The Danish Architecture Center has recently unveiled a major exhibition dedicated to celebrated architect and interior designer Zaha Hadid. The first room in the major Zaha Hadid show is filled with filigree exhibits – strikingly presented on platforms of different heights. They are longitudinal forms that are often rounded. Many of them only differ in terms of the details, almost all are primarily white or cream, and the floor is likewise white – by virtue of this monochrome feel, the ensemble exudes a meditative, almost clinical sense of calm. Nowhere do you spy entrance doors, windows or other signs that these objects are architectural models. Instead, they seem to be highly aesthetic objects whose purpose can simply not be defined.

She no doubt personally approved the fact that in one corner of this room six of the gleaming silver vases have been placed on a plinth – she designed them for Alessi. Whereas in the loggia next door, luminaires designed by Hadid hang from the ceiling in a decidedly mundane manner.
Each object in the first room is assigned a number, a year, and a place. “CBD001 Beijing China 2010” is to be read on the plinth bearing the highest model. However, this data does not tell you much other than the item it presumably a model made three years ago for a building in Beijing.

The one or other label is more matter of fact, such as “Central Bank of Iraq”. Countless exhibits bear the same label, albeit with a different number, and visitors can only assume that this must mean they are elaborations of a specific idea or different proposals for one and the same building, such as the Central Bank of Iraq. Viewing the objects is certainly enjoyable but for them to really be instructive we would need to be able to grasp the development process, for example by being told why what changes were made and being shown models from a later design phase, perhaps supplemented by renderings.

That’s precisely what you get on the first floor. There you are first confronted by two sofa designs reminiscent formally of Luigi Colani’s work. They’re followed by a room dedicated to Hadid’s proposal for the “MAXXI” in Rome, the Italian national museum for 21st century art, with a large model of the building on show in the middle of the room. Unlike on the lower floor, the model is of a later phase in the design, and the building’s function is clearly discernible. There are renderings on the wall, whereby you’ll need a bit of practice to spot out the differences between model and rendering, as again you’ll hunt for an explanatory text in vain.

Zaha Hadid not only designed the MAXXI, but also the new annex to the Ordrupgaard Museum north of Copenhagen. So you can stand amazed at her architecture in reality after exiting the exhibition. “Hadid builds museums for herself, not for art,” is the kind of commentary one not infrequently hears when talking to museum staff and artists.

Moreover, the exhibition only shows a small section of the broad spectrum of work handled by Hadid’s studio, but familiarizes viewers with its efforts. Long explanatory texts often easily distract from the exhibits, but even short explanations would have helped especially those visitors who are interested in architecture but are not Hadid experts. A little more information would have helped the Danish Architecture Center succeed better in acquainting not just architects with Zaha Hadid’s architecture.

Zaha Hadid – World Architecture runs from 29 June till 29 September 2013 Danish Architecture Center, København, Denmark

The MAXXI Museum in Rome is one of the exposed projects of Zaha Hadid at the DAC

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