Building Design magazine’s Tim Clark, in “Gold Medal winner Hadid marks award with ‘traditionalism’ fears” (register for free), writes that in her remarks on Tuesday night, “Hadid spoke of her worry regarding a move towards traditional design among London’s developments.” She adds:
I have always believed in progress and in creativity’s role in progress. That’s why I remain critical of any traditionalism. I worry about the dominance of neo-rationalism in London’s current transformation.
Compared with Hadid’s work, everything else must be considered “traditional” and hence worrisome. But I’m not sure how she thinks traditional work (that is, work that is actually traditional rather than just more so than hers) threatens her work. Except, of course, that Britons who like beauty in architecture might wake up and work to make sure that their city keeps the RIBA laureate’s buildings out. (Her Olympic Aquatics Centre is 9 km from Charing Cross.) London already has too many buildings and more planned that seem intended to terrorize its citizens and explode its skyline.
Clark’s piece reprints her lecture. Check out the following passage:
This is the meaning of my first compositional strategies: explosion and fragmentation. The Russian avant-garde offered me a reservoir of yet untested compositional innovations, full of complexity and dynamism.
The Suprematist compositions of Malevich and El Lissitzky experimented with the interpenetration of forms rather than maintaining their neat separation. This is much more in tune with our current interest in the mixing of functions and the search for synergies.
I added to this the ideas of distortion and gradient transformation, for the sake of site adaptation and versatility. Further, I explored the use of free form curvature to articulate the dynamism and fluidity of contemporary life.
“Explosion and fragmentation”: Isn’t that what terrorists do? When Hadid is not complaining about a tilt toward tradition in London architecture that only she is able to perceive, she is complaining about being misunderstood. If she believes that a city and its citizens want buildings that either explode or fragment, or that somehow cause explosion and fragmentation in their neighborhoods, then Zaha should be thankful she is misunderstood. As it is, I think the public, if not the design establishment, understands her all to0 perfectly and wants none of it.
Of her work she said: “All this serves urban densification, and urbanity, via invasion by new complex projects, projects that should be well embedded into their sites and serve as connective tissue rather than separate fortresses.”
This is a specimen of what Mencken would call “the obviously not true.”
Of course, contrary to its protestations, architecture today is not about giving either clients or the public what they want. It’s about smacking them upside the head, good and hard, and for their own benefit as assessed by experts who epitomize the old saw, “Only an expert could believe that!” How long are Britons (and the rest of us, for that matter) going to take it lying down?
Hats off to Steve Mouzon and Hank Dittmar for posting the article extracting Hadid’s comments on how scary tradition is.