Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid

To achieve large-scale column-free interiors . . .

Architecture’s leading lady of lavish lines – you guessed it, Zaha – cops a lot of flak for her indulgent spaces. Will the same fate befall the Heydar Aliyev Center?

Hadid’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery has been described as ‘pointlessly bombastic’ see Frame 96, due out 1 January) and like ‘a wedding marquee battling a stiff breeze’. But no matter how much scrutiny she receives, Hadid is still going strong. (The saying ‘No publicity is bad publicity’ seems to ring true in this case).

The studio won a 2007 competition to design the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, following Azerbaijan’s bid to free itself from Soviet Modernism. To describe the result as ‘fluid’ would do little to distinguish the project from the others in Hadid’s portfolio, but the design team says one of the biggest challenges was the ‘architectural development of the building’s skin. Our ambition was to achieve a surface so continuous that it appears homogenous. Advanced computing allowed for the continuous control and communication of the project’s complexities.’

It’s highly unlikely that many architectural fanatics have Baku in their upcoming travel plans, so the real test will be how the building stands up over time. Those who do make it can fill the rest of us in: are the stark white passages and golden concert hall as impressive in real life as they are in the pictures?


Photos Hufton + Crow

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