Zaha Hadid

Explore the relationship between painting, drawing, and technology in Zaha Hadid’s ground-breaking architectural design and unrealised projects

Zaha Hadid by Brigitte Lacombe by Brigitte LacombeSerpentine Galleries

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid (1950–2016) was widely regarded as a pioneering and visionary architect whose contribution to the world of architecture was ground-breaking and innovative. Born in Baghdad, Hadid moved to London in 1972 to attend the Architectural Association (AA) and later, in 1979, founded Zaha Hadid Architects. Each of her projects spans over thirty years of exploration and research in the interrelated fields of urbanism, architecture and design including Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London (2013), London Aquatics Centre (2011) and Guangzhou Opera House (2010). 

Zaha Hadid's contribution on a Post-it to Hans Ulrich Obrist's Instagram, as a part of Obrist's ongoing project to celebrate the free, handwritten word (2016) by Zaha HadidSerpentine Galleries

London 2066 (1991) by Zaha HadidSerpentine Galleries

"That’s what it’s all about [with] London, it’s about potentials. Its role is to be the ultimate ‘unrealised project’." – Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings, Installation View (2016)Serpentine Galleries

Zaha Hadid at Serpentine Galleries

Early Paintings and Drawings is an exhibition taking place at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery from 8 December 2016 to 12 February 2017. The Serpentine presentation, first conceived with Hadid herself, reveals her as an artist with drawing at the very heart of her work and includes the architect’s calligraphic sketches and rarely seen private notebooks that reveal her complex thoughts about architectural forms. This exhibition presents Hadid’s early works, focusing on the period prior to the erection of her first building in 1993 (the Vitra Fire Station in Germany), presenting and includes her paintings and drawings from the 1970s to the early 1990s. The exhibition takes place at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, renovated and extended by Zaha Hadid Architects in 2013.

Victoria City Aerial: Aerial Perspective (1988) by Zaha HadidSerpentine Galleries

Painting and drawing as design tools

Drawing and painting were fundamental to Hadid’s practice. Influenced by Malevich, Tatlin and Rodchenko, she used calligraphic drawings as the main method for visualising her architectural ideas. For Hadid, painting was a design tool, and abstraction served as an investigative structure for imagining architecture and its relationship to the world in which we live. These works on paper and canvas unravel an architecture that Hadid was determined to realise in built structures and is seen in the characteristic lightness and weightlessness of her buildings.

Interpretation of Tatlin's Spiral, plan (1992/1993) by Zaha HadidSerpentine Galleries

Screenshot. Zaha Hadid: Virtual Reality Experience 2016 (2016) by Zaha HadidSerpentine Galleries

Technology and innovation: from drawing to virtual reality

Many of Hadid’s paintings pre-empt the potential of digital and virtual reality. Utilising the potential of multiple and layered perspectives through transparency and abstraction, first through the dynamism of drawing and then through the x-ray possibilities of 3D modelling and digital technologies, Hadid pursued principles of fragmentation, explosion and fluidity in the process of conceptualising buildings and spaces.

Screenshot. Zaha Hadid: Virtual Reality Experience 2016 (2016) by Zaha HadidSerpentine Galleries

"Our designs become more ambitious as we see the new possibilities created by the technology of other industries. There is a strong reciprocal relationship whereby our more ambitious design visions encourage the continuing development of the new digital technologies and fabrication techniques, and those new developments in turn inspire us to push the design envelope ever further." – Zaha Hadid

Screenshot. Zaha Hadid: Virtual Reality Experience 2016 (2016) by Zaha HadidSerpentine Galleries

Landscapes in motion

On the occasion of this exhibition, a series of virtual reality experiences have been specially developed with Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality Group working in partnership with Google Arts & Culture. In the same way that Zaha Hadid's paintings served as tools for thinking through and proposing the design of new buildings, this experience seeks to translate some of the key aspects and DNA contained inside the paintings into virtual reality (VR), offering potential new insights and an intriguing continuity and expansion of the painting’s vitality.

Screenshot. Zaha Hadid: Virtual Reality Experience 2016 (2016) by Zaha HadidSerpentine Galleries

Zaha Hadid Architects and virtual reality

Each of these experiences was made possible by the design and articulation of the Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality Group, who have in recent years initiated the use of VR at Zaha Hadid Architects. Virtual reality comes naturally to Zaha Hadid Architects; having entirely digitised its design process and project work flow – moving the computer generated spaces into their own digital universe was an obvious next step, preempted only by the forms and gestures made in the paintings Zaha produced throughout her career.

Zaha Hadid Exhibition SupportersSerpentine Galleries

Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality GroupSerpentine Galleries

Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality Group:

Helmut Kinzler
Jose Pareja-Gomez

Andy Lomas

Melodie Leung
Magda Smolinska
Aiste Dzikaraite

Credits: Story

© Zaha Hadid Foundation 2016

Credits: All media
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