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.

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