Outer Space

Zaha Hadid designs buildings that seem to defy the laws of gravity. The Iraqi-born architect, who was trained and lives in London, is known for visionary compositions of fragmentary, overlapping spaces that sweep the viewer up in restless, swirling motion. This striking show of drawings and maquettes for international competitions includes both built and unbuilt projects that suggest a towering architecture of the imagination.

Piranesi and Tatlin, as much as Rudolph and Eisenman, produced the precursors for these dreamlike spaces. Sketched on large black sheets of paper, their intricately interlocking forms challenge the mind as they set the senses spinning. Whether it's because she hails from a city now in ruins (Baghdad), or because she's a dutiful postmodern nomad, Hadid's designs are haunted by a sense of immateriality. Her buildings appear to glide like trains across a landscape, dissolve in veils and contradictions, or jangle with the crush of urban experience. She calls her drawings "whirlwinds" and "explosions." Yet their sensual grace and narrative logic are palpable and engaging.

New York, an architectural backwater, lacks the good fortune of downtown Cincinnati, which will be home to the Contemporary Arts Center, Hadid's first United States commission, scheduled for completion in 2001. (Drawings and models for the Arts Center, which caused a stir in architectural circles last year, are included in this exhibition.) But in the back room of Protetch, New Yorkers can ogle a Hadid-designed silver tea set whose four components come apart to create a miniature city in motion. Think of it as small compensation for the large-scale architectural experiences still denied us.


Zaha Hadid
Max Protetch
511 West 22nd Street
Through April 3

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