Porous by Design

Architect Zaha Hadid blurs the line between interior and exterior

It depends where, but we try to achieve a range. Then there is the issue of how much the civic space gets outdated by design or accident. Planning needs to impregnate the public space with variety and excitement, whether by sloping or peeling or terracing -- a sort of choreography of shapes to incite movement and discovery. Geometry is very critical to reinventing the urban space.

How can we make it work in Miami?

Though I visit often, I don't know Miami that well. But I'll tell you, I see so many new towers in Miami (that for the most part are dreadful). This will dominate the skyline for years to come. Miami has a very interesting topography -- all these islands, the beach -- I love cities that are metropolises and also resorts. They offer people the possibility of getting out of their daily chores of life and enjoying themselves for a couple of hours. I've driven through the downtown and I see it needs to be rejuvenated. It could in fact be reinvented. There are interesting possibilities for reinvention in that area next to downtown, where all these museums will be. Or in Brickell, where they could create a different approach to that urban strip. Miami has so many facets.

The Vitra fire station (top) in Weil am Rhein, Germany 
(1994) was Zaha Hadid's first built project; her 
Contemporary Arts Center (bottom) in Cincinnati 
(2003) was the first museum in the United States to be 
designed by a woman
The Vitra fire station (top) in Weil am Rhein, Germany (1994) was Zaha Hadid's first built project; her Contemporary Arts Center (bottom) in Cincinnati (2003) was the first museum in the United States to be designed by a woman

Your earlier paintings are very beautiful as pieces themselves. People have perceived them as collages. You've called them "contained explosions." I see them as renditions of possible worlds beyond Euclidean geometry (particularly these wormhole renditions). Lately your paintings are monochromatic and you seem to rely more on computer technologies. How important is painting for you?

They were the construction of worlds. They were very important in the development of my work. They had more distortion. They gave you exploded and imagined conceptions of space. Computers, on the other hand, are more real and more opaque. They can render reality from so many angles, but they are very different. At the time, the common techniques in presentation did not use this kind of approach. In that context they were novel and did their job.

Your architecture is audacious -- this idea of the building going outside and the street coming inside and walls trespassing the confines of the box. I think it tests the limit of urban spaces to overcome their own fears. This is promising for social integration. What can we learn from your experience?

It depends on the location. There's no master planning. There are areas that have different densities and I'd apply different ideas and methodologies. The idea is not to homogenize and generalize. Each neighborhood has different qualities. There are lots of residential spaces here. Perhaps we need more civic spaces in well-designed areas. I'm still learning my way around.

Some critics and architects have described your work as cold. What do you have to say to that?

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that my work is not about how to reinvent the exterior, but the interior. My work came about during and after a phase of pastiche and surface in contemporary architecture, filled with color, faux marble, and stuff like that. Once you are inside my buildings, you are in for an exciting experience. We're building more now, so I'd say it's very difficult to base your judgment on a single image.

I fell in love with your science center in Wolfsburg, which if anything looks quite expressionistic; this biomorphic porous mass of contoured concrete, filled with holes. One feels absorbed by what's inside.

We have achieved a great degree of complexity. The center is a feat of engineering. Each building we do is different, it has a different approach. The study of the ground was critical. We combined a lot of research to be able to come up with this.

When will we see a Hadid building in Miami?

I wish it were up to me. But there's nothing in the cards right now.

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