Nuttin\’ like a Dame

Dr Mary Doreen Archer, Chair, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. For serv the NHS.

Rather fun. Dame Mary, Lady Archer……

Ms Zaha Hadid, CBE, For serv Architecture.

Has anything she\’s designed ever been built? And stayed up and been useful?

27 thoughts on “Nuttin\’ like a Dame”

  1. Yes. The Maggie’s Centre. Not a massive ‘showpiece’ building but an incredibly valuable place for cancer sufferers and their relatives.

    I’ve not seen the Kirkcaldy one, but if it’s anything like the Edinburgh one (a different architect, true) then it will be incredibly useful.

  2. Building a serviceable building for a valuable facility is not “service to architecture”.

  3. The Pedant-General

    @Roger Thornhill

    Yes it is: it’s a very valuable service in that it shows it can be done. 😛

  4. Well, I’ve just looked at the photo of her Kirkcaldy folly & my already low opinion or architects has sunk to new levels. She’s obviously never had hands on experience of building anything.
    Trouble with architects is they lose the plot. The requirement is a structure to suit a purpose. The designer should solve the problems of doing so in as elegant manner as possible. Unless there’s something strange going on inside that piece of shite, the design’s not solving any problems. It’s creating them. For a start it violates the big rule. Never build anything subject to catastrophic collapse. You always design so if any art of the structure fails, what remains will suffer the minimum of deformation. It’s why no-one in their right mind builds large panels of uninterrupted brickwork without including some piers or returns etc. If you don’t & one section fails, its weight pulls the whole lot over. If you ignore the froth on most classical architecture, that’s what’s in the architect’s mind. That’s why structures survive a couple of millennia. Good examples at Pisa. Ground it stands on’s subsided & it still stands.
    There’s also ‘livability’. There’s a building in Camden I know. Architect had an obsession with curves. Even for the inside walls. Furniture solutions are a nightmare. Unless everything’s made to measure & permanently sited it wastes valuable, usable space. Try building curved kitchen units. How would you mount a flat-screen TV on inside of that canted wall. There’s not enough tilt in a standard bracket to be able to see the screen without the reflections of the lighting interfering. A custom bracket would be seriously pricey. Money that could be better spent solving real problems.
    The other part of ‘liveability’ is perception. Camden building had that problem. The external curves to the apartment entrance halls was great. The cheated perspectives made them look enormous. Downside was the opposite effect in the adjoining rooms. Internal radii made even good sized rooms look cramped. But they’re the rooms you’re actually using.
    There really should be special facilities for hanging architects. I’d be quite happy to design one.

  5. Incidentally. Just had another look at the Kirkcaldy monstrosity & spotted something amusing.
    It must have looked quite impressive in the artist’s rendition. All angular brutality on it’s corner surrounded by grey asphalt. Then a couple of blokes in donkey jackets from Highway’s came & painted double yellow lines around it. Spoiled the whole effect. There is justice………

  6. Sorry if I bore you by keep retuning to this but I find this Hadid woman quite fascinating. She’s born in ’50 & gets a degree in mathematics in ’71 or thereabouts. She then attends the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London which, as it’s presumably not one of those mail order qualification places operating out of a PO Box in Earls Court, must have been for the purposes of receiving some sort of training. 1977 has her becoming a partner at Koolhaas where she meets the engineer who “gave her support and encouragement early on, at a time when her work seemed difficult to build.”(Wiki). By the ’80s she’s teaching architecture without apparently having the slightest practical experience in what is entailed in constructing a building.

    Yep. “For services to architecture.” Can’t think of a award this year that’s more appropriate.

  7. Haven’t seen the swimming pool yet, but it’s looking decent in photos and my architect-y friends have given it good write-ups.

  8. I don’t think it’s fair to make completed buildings the sole criterion for ‘services to architecture’. Apart from all the other things she has done, some of Hadid’s unbuilt designs are interesting and novel enough to have inspired other architects.

    Personally, I’m a big fan of her style, at least as far as the outside of buildings goes. I haven’t seen inside any of her work myself. She has a nice eye for line and form, making her buildings rather smart and interesting, at least to my eyes. I have no idea if she’s competent as a designer of practical buildings.

  9. GlenDorran,

    I’ve not seen the Kirkcaldy one, but if it’s anything like the Edinburgh one (a different architect, true) then it will be incredibly useful.

    You really need to look at the Kirkcaldy one.

    The Edinburgh one looks good. Lots of wood, greenery. If you’re going through cancer treatment , it’s going to be the sort of relaxing place you’d want to be.

    It seems to me that architecture often isn’t that complicated, that there are certain types of buildings for certain purposes (city hotels have a different design to country hotels), but the problem when the state gets involved is that it becomes like a piece of frivolity for them. If I had to design 10 cancer centres, I’d get one really good one designed and if it worked out, go back to the architect, and tell them to come up with the rest based on the same design. You’d apply lessons learnt from the first one, and expect a discount as they’d have so much work from you.

    When you look at these people, you notice that they have very little work from the competitive private sector. Most internet companies run out of anonymous offices somewhere on a trading estate.

  10. Response to everyone above:

    Fair enough. I’m probably a touch sensitive at the moment as a close relative is going through cancer treatment at the moment. This horrible experience has been made more bearable by the Edinburgh Maggie’s Centre. I’m projecting my experience onto the Kirkcaldy one (I’ve no doubt the people and organisation are just as good as in Edinburgh, but this discussion is about architecture, so I’ll just keep my yap shut now)

  11. Because it’s cool. Because it’s nice to look at. Because it makes the world a happier place.

    Tower Bridge is a steel structure. The gothic cladding is completely impractical just-for-show nonsense. The towers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge aren’t even structural (the steel span doesn’t touch them). But they define cities and look awesome and make people happy they exist.

  12. > Try building curved kitchen units.

    At Maggie’s Kirkcaldy they just used straight ones which don’t seem to line up with the curved worktop.


    Not a fan of Zaha; she’s an artist not a architect, and practicality comes about 27th to my-visionx26.

    For me the cockup which sticks out at Kirkcaldy is only having a handrail on one side of an inclined entrance path. The building is between a carpark and a tower block.

    What are two people suffering from cancer needing the support supposed to do when they meet?

    On one side the ‘handrail’ is a wall which gradually reduces to ground level.

    The Aquatic Centre was ‘enviro friendly’ but turns out to be wood cladding, on an humungous steel frame (or so I hear). The internal wood cladding is vulnerable to damp.


    And it went about 4x over budget.

    And cannot be easily converted for viable future use.

    The best Olympic Building is the velodrome.

    Thank Christ we’ve only got 4 Zaha buildings in the UK, and two are in Scotland.

    Did I say I wasn’t a fan?

  13. She designed the Master Plan for the renovation of a whole old area of Bilbao.

    Met her a couple of times. Had the pleasure of a €1,000,000 cheque passing through my hands to hers (No, it had her name on it not mine).

    If she is half as good as she thinks she is, she’s great.

    The rest of us are still out on that question though.

  14. The architect for the Maggie’s Centre in Edinburgh was of course Richard Murphy. No relation, one earnestly hopes.

    The centres seem to be a good thing in themselves, but innovative architecture would be a long way down my list of what’s important in them.

  15. The way I feel about design, on one hand you have the desired objective. What you’re trying to achieve. On the other you have the range of materials & techniques available & the constraints of budget & technical requirements. You try & use the constraints & resources to generate the design in the most efficient manner possible. The elegance actually seems to be generated out of the efficiency. A design that does something efficiently is naturally elegant. Pleasing to the eye & pleasant to interact with. And by definition, it’s doable. But you do need to understand materials & techniques to work this way. Have practical experience.

  16. “Had the pleasure of a €1,000,000 cheque passing through my hands to hers”
    And that’s what pisses me most about architects like her. The real work is done by the poor sods trying to get the design off the paper into reality. That’s why they come in way over budget & it’s those sods who will have had the bean counters on their backs all through the project.

  17. Bloke in Spain>

    “what’s the point of an impractical building?”

    None at all. To start with, I agree with you that sometimes architects indulge in frivolities which actually detract from their buildings. There’s a Norman Foster office block in the City which has a pillar right in front of the main stairs – but it looks good…

    What is worth spending time and effort on, for practical reasons, is making an attractive building, or even a beautiful one. I’m sure you wouldn’t argue that, all other things being equal, a good-looking building is better than an ugly one. At that point, then, the only question is how much it’s worth paying to make it happen, and that answer varies depending on circumstances.

    I agree that elegance can come from efficiency, but it’s not always the case. Some things are beautiful despite being inefficient. Sometimes efficiency is not particularly obvious or attractive.

    I’ve only seen one picture of the Kirkcaldy building, but it looks to me like it wouldn’t cost much more to build than a simple box, and it’s a lot less depressing. The slanted walls aren’t hard to build – the building must be steel framed – and increase the internal volume for the same footprint, leaving extra outside space whilst helping the building feel light and airy inside.

    The other way to look at it is that some buildings can be less efficient, and more arty/design-y in order to help give other architects ideas for less arty concepts to use in the simpler, cheaper projects. If we’re paying for quite a nice building to be designed anyway, maybe it’s worth paying a little more to get the additional benefit of inspiring the local architects to improve the quality of buildings nearby.

    Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that most architects need to do functional work, but there’s a place for a few showpiece buildings with stunning concepts or designs even when that’s not the cheapest way to do it. When it comes to buildings like that, they still need to function, but they also need to have a clear design concept of some kind. The latter is clearly what Hadid is good at, not the former, which is why she designs a lot more than she gets built.

  18. Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is that most architects need to do functional work, but there’s a place for a few showpiece buildings with stunning concepts or designs even when that’s not the cheapest way to do it. When it comes to buildings like that, they still need to function, but they also need to have a clear design concept of some kind. The latter is clearly what Hadid is good at, not the former, which is why she designs a lot more than she gets built.

    To what public benefit?

    The problem with a lot of this work is that it doesn’t influence mainstream architecture because it costs a lot more money, while adding little to the value of the building (value includes things like whether it’s a building that people enjoy visiting).

    The minimalist Mies van de Rohe is far more influential because those buildings are efficient and cheap to maintain. There’s very few buildings influenced by the Lloyds Building or the Pompidou Centre, but you can see Mies van de Rohe’s influence in every Regus office building.

  19. “To what public benefit?”

    As I said, all other things being equal – particularly cost – a well-designed building, including aesthetic value, is better than a less-well-designed one.

    “The problem with a lot of this work is that it doesn’t influence mainstream architecture because it costs a lot more money”

    I don’t disagree. But I don’t think it’s impossible that having a few architects like Hadid, who are good at having ideas for building shapes that look good, is a bad thing. We also need many more architects who are talented at looking at the ideas of people like Hadid, and using them in a small, cheap, way to influence their designs and make more attractive buildings as a result.

    To an extent, it’s horses for courses, as odious an expression as that is. Sometimes you want to build a maximally efficient warehouse, but sometimes you want to build a landmark. They have different design imperatives, so it’s likely that the best architects for the two jobs will have different talents – although that doesn’t mean one is a ‘better’ architect than another.

    “There’s very few buildings influenced by the Lloyds Building”

    I have to disagree strongly with that. Have you walked down Leadenhall Street, or around the area, any time recently? It’s been incredibly influential. From the buildings right next to it, which are clearly directly responding to it, to the rest of the CoL which has been strongly influenced, I think there’s a basic style language which pretty much defined City architecture for a generation.

    Despite that, I wasn’t suggesting that as a main reason for building something like the Lloyds’ building.

    Also, arguably, the bits that are commonly used from the Modernist toolbox ‘invented’ by people like van der Rohe and Le Corbusier are actually the bits they cribbed from the Georgians, who in turn cribbed them from the classical world. There’s very little that’s actually new in architecture, just different ways of building in the same ideas or making the same mistakes.

  20. Don’t know if anyone’s still interested in this subject but, as some above seem to have got the idea that efficiency implies boring buildings, an explanation.
    The building I live in has to be a good example. Full marks to the architect for innovation. Hanging an 8 storey apartment block off a slope that’s only a few degrees from vertical’s some achievement. The front door’s on level 6 & the car parking’s levels 4 & 5. But due to the materials used in the construction, it has to have expansion joints incorporated in it & those joints need to be waterproof. The architect’s solution was caulking them with a silicon plastic mastic. Problem is, that cualking’s subject to a temperature range of over a hundred degrees C some days. You really can fry eggs here. Result’s the stuff degrades rapidly & as I’ve got the penthouse, the place was awash during heavy rain last year. So we’ve just had a team of builders swarming over it at enormous expense raking out & recaulking. If I’d have designed that detail, I would have used a technique that’s been around since we first moved out of caves & built mud huts. Built it so the water’s naturally channelled away from the joint. To do that would considerably change the lines of the building, but would give me a feature to play with that could enhance it. Hence the efficiency would be driving the design rather than the design reducing the efficiency. What we have is something looks good on paper but doesn’t survive translation to the real world.

  21. There’s also something that architects & architectural connoisseurs often don’t get. The vast majority of ordinary people don’t notice the visual aspect of a building much past the third time they see it. That’s even more true of those who work in it, live in it, shop in it, visit it regularly. That’s how the mind works. But the direct physical effect it has is reinforced every time they interact with it. So that open plaza looks so great in the presentation, designed by an architect with fuck all appreciation of aerodynamics, just become somewhere they get blown across in anything but a dead calm & a place to avoid on a stormy, rain soaked day.

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