Not a good obit for an architect

They were also sometimes deeply impractical, colossally expensive and seemingly indifferent to the program at hand.

20 thoughts on “Not a good obit for an architect”

  1. Hmmmm…. there’s not a lot of love on Twitter and Facebook for this “architect who left her mark on the world”.

    I’ll be kind here. What Hadid did, like Liebeskind and Gehry was to build statements, not buildings. Things to be filmed and photographed, not practical, liveable buildings. And mostly these are temporary statements. They don’t become well-loved buildings. They don’t affect real architecture, because real architecture has to balance aesthetics with practical management.

  2. Actually – that sounds *exactly* like how you get to be known as a ‘groundbreaking Architect’. By throwing up fancy designs without any care about what the *client* is wanting.

    Because you’re so avant-guarde that the pleb signing the checks just can’t understand true inspiration. Couple that with the right personality, let marinate for a few years and this is what you get.

    At least she was designing stuff that was actually buildable.

  3. Just to add: it’s a bit like someone once said about the advertising awards that a lot of the ones that win fail as ads. Artistically brilliant, but really, the measure of a good ad is how many extra cars, bottles of sugar water or jamrags that it sells.

  4. I followed the link and looked at the pix. They look pretty good to me. Though I don’t know how practical they are.

  5. In the same breath people were saying “it took years to get a contract in the West” and “she was criticised for working in countries run by dicatatorships”.

    People work for people prepared to employ them. Maybe if European builders had employed her she wouldn’t have had to work for dictatorships in order to be able to buy food.

  6. jgh, I think it comes back to The Stigler’s argument that architects like Hadid tend to “build statements, not buildings”. Dictators are always willing to spend the money they’ve stolen from other people on grand ideological statements. They don’t really care about whether the construction has any practical use as long as it projects the right image. Clients who have commissioned a building for people to live or work in tend to be more concerned about whether it can actually be used for that purpose.

    But if a building only exists to fulfill some symbolic purpose then it is not really a “building” in the usual meaning of the word. It is really a form of sculpture, and many of Hadid’s designs are best seen as abstract modernist sculptures. Perhaps the real truth about Zaha Hadid is that she was working in the wrong field.

  7. So Much For Subtlety

    Hey, don’t knock it, it worked for Bloody Stupid Johnson.

    She is really just Britain’s equivalent.

  8. The only art on which there’s much point arguing is architecture. I give not a hoot what people hang on their walls, nor which poems they read. But bloody architecture impinges on me all the time. So, as a mature reflection on much architecture of the last hundred years, I say “hang the lot of ’em”.

  9. Not all that many people know who Jorn Utzon was or what he designed. His building was publicly funded and laughed in the face of it’s budget.. yet today is globally iconic and has repaid that investment many times over. The exception rather than the rule, for sure, but amongst the many things that our money is splurged on, architecture is a lesser evil.

    I quite like Hadid’s buildings aesthetically. I’ve never had to use one. She was fortunate, however, to be working in a time where engineering and construction can do that sort of stuff pretty well. She’s not had to overcome the technical challenges of bringing those ideas to life that her predecessors did.

  10. I lived and worked in an “architectural masterpiece” when at university. It was finally demolished a couple of years ago. Nuff Said.

  11. @jgh – I also lived in a building at university that had won architectural design awards. It looked like a 70s Spanish hotel and was notably lacking in its full complement of right-angles, which was a total pest.

    And built in stainless steel kitchens designed by someone who didn’t think about what happens to steel when a hotplate rigidly attached to it gets hot… With controls over the rings so they get full of fat and stop working.

    Brilliant…. :/

  12. AndrewZ,

    Yes, they’re best seen as sculpture. I mean, the Sydney Opera House is successful, but it’s primarily successful as sculpture. It’s not a great concert hall for many reasons.

    In fact, one of the problems is that this emphasis on ‘sculpture’ leads to practical problems. A lot of buildings are a cuboid for good reasons.

    But the NYT misunderstands the business. The likes of Hadid and Gehry deliver on the ‘program at hand’. Their clients are statists looking for a symbol who don’t look too carefully at the practical details. If people don’t like this shit, it’s the government you have to blame for signing off on it.

  13. @ The Stigler

    Well of course. Any fule no that if you’re down under and looking for substance over style, you go to Melbourne.

  14. If she was criticised for working for dictators then she obviously never worked for Castro or Chavez. You’re immune from criticism if you go and work in Cuba or Venezuela.

  15. She will have left her mark on the new Bilbao, not through her buildings though.

    She and her team have been responsible for the Master Plan for the urban renewal of the Zorrotzaurre peninsula (soon to be island) on the river in Bilbao. It is an old industrial area with some old houses and it should be ‘spectacular’. Have to wait 15 or 20 years (It’s a long haul job!).

    Modern light industry, services, educational and innovative start ups, housing linked to the water… It is also bringing the surrounding banks back to life. Many others are involved (thank goodness) and it should become a sort of second more habitable city centre. More Amsterdam than Bilbao…

    Take a look and see what you think:
    (cut and paste you lazy b…..)

  16. Speaking as a builder, the news of the death of an architect always imparts a warm happy feeling. With this one, celebrations are in order.

  17. bis

    I understand. Shall we say, that from what I saw (I had brief but very close, personal professional contact with the Dame) that the level of empathy for minions (and builders, and my dear self, were clearly, in her view, minions) was below zero.

    I’ll let history judge her designs, but personally, I put her up there with the swiss-domiciled Valencian, Calatrava, for cost over-runs, impracticality, built-in uncomfort and anger with the plebs for not appreciating the brilliance.

  18. A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines. – Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959)

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