Walking in Zaha’s shoes

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Zaha Hadid-designed shoes worn by Maya Diab. (albawaba.com)

Here is my monthly blog post from the last issue of Traditional Building. The post was written shortly after the passing of Dame Zaha Hadid, one of my least favorite architects. “Walking in modernist shoes: Zaha Hadid” was my attempt to try to see things from the perspective of the other guy. Here are the first two paragraphs of that post:

A passage I cannot now locate in “Master and Commander,” by Patrick O’Brian, has ship’s surgeon (and Admiralty spy) Stephen Maturin urging Captain Aubrey to “walk in the other man’s shoes” before leaping to criticize. When architect Zaha Hadid died the other day, I tried to walk in her shoes. They did not fit.

Speaking of shoes, Hadid in her time designed a few pair. Her most celebrated shoe could as easily be, were it larger, a Hadid building – space for a foot on the inside and a shiny metal thingamajig on the outside, looking as far from a lady’s shoe as possible. Her buildings all have doors, and interior spaces from which one may ignore its exterior – as Guy de Maupassant dined at the Eiffel Tower to avoid looking at it. These are the only concessions to tradition in her entire oeuvre.

Feel free to criticize my attempt to see things from the other guy’s shoes, as it were, especially in light of my most recent Traditional Building blog post, which replies to the Forum essay by architectural historian Paul Ranogajec, who thinks classicists could benefit by taking the intellectual discourse of our era more seriously. I expect my post’s reply to be up on the TB website any moment, if it is not there already. I will link to it when it shows up.

Meanwhile, here is my own blog’s post “Dame Zaha, rest in peace,” written the day of her passing. Of course, it did not make it into any of the roundups of architectural commentary on Zaha’s death and her legacy. Surprise! But then it really wasn’t about her, was it? Rather it was about her benighted profession.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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