Zaha Hadid

The Design Processes of Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid has pushed the very envelope of Architectural and Urban Design to new horizons. Hadid, a controversial celebrity in the architecture world continues to pursue visionary ideas despite the fact that many have never adopted physical form. Slandered as impractical or too avant-garde much of her early work has remained frozen in painted art work, a medium that features as a unique and integral part of Hadid's design process. The primary interest throughout this study is the design processes of Hadid and how they influence the architecture produced. The question has arisen over whether Hadid's oeuvre is simply becoming a brand that renders no complex connection to its context and forcefully demands the overbearing status of an icon. Nonetheless the intricacies of both the journey of her design and the completed spectacular product beg to be delved into deeper.

This study explores Zaha Hadid's design style in a progressive manner, to better understand her design we must first analyse the early influences in Hadid's life that have shaped her oeuvre. The study will then examine the design processes and techniques of Hadid's practice in three main components. The conceptual stage and its techniques, an area of particular interest due to its unique approach. The development and generation of form from concept, looking into both organisational strategies and materiality. This is then followed by the review into the completed project and an exploration into what has been achieved. The project ‘LF one, (Weil am Rhein, Germany)' provides the primary basis of these three components, investigated through the study of drawings and production of relevant models.

"I'm trying to discover, invent, I suppose architecture, and forms of urban planning, that do something of the same thing in a contemporary way. I started out trying to create buildings that would sparkle like isolated jewels; now I want them to connect, to form a new kind of landscape, to flow together with contemporary cities and the lives of their peoples.”
Hadid Z, (2006). ‘I don't do Nice' [Online] available at:

Suprematism has played a key role in influencing Hadid's design, in particular that of Russian Supremacist Kazimir Malevich. Clearly geometrics and Form have been directly affected by Hadid's study into this area through the use of utilitarian perfection, presented throughout Hadid's projects as seamless fluid concrete form, energetic, yet motionless. Hadid's use of deconstructivism is a large aspect to her design through the use of fragmentation, planes and volumes.

“I was excited by the Russian avante-guard, supremacism and deconstructivism and how one can inject that into architecture”

Hadid, Z. (2006) Interview with Goldberger, P. Location unknown, 1 June. [Online] available at:

Sketching, model making and Rendering has always been essential in the design process of creating great architecture. What makes the processes of Zaha Hadid architects so unique and interesting is the way in which painting is used to explore space, form and the spatial and organisational arrangements. Painting, an art form closely related to presentation has been deconstructed by Zaha and used in a reversed sense, as conceptualization.

Hadid's oeuvre cannot be better placed than in the warped reality of her paintings. She has taken what has been rudimentary in architecture; vertical, horizontal, perspective and the horizon and bends it. This questions the fundamentals of form and space creating new and dynamic relationships between components.

In the early years of Hadid's work early modes of drawing did not allow her to perceive or deal with the different aspects of her design. There for she had to look at drawing from a new perspective. Utilizing new technologies in 3D computer modelling and rendering, Zaha layers over such technology using acrylic on canvas or cartridge paper as well as recently using the process of silver painting. Her paintings hold a complexity of three-dimensional space on a two dimensional medium with a clear characterization of Zaha's style through deconstructivism. Supremacist paintings contain a number of key aspects that Hadid has presented, such as the colour white to denote ‘infinity'. This is illustrated well in the scattered fragments of geometry within ‘Malevich's Tektonik', Hadid's final graduation project at the Architectural Association. Form, space and tectonics are denoted through the use of different coloured layers of the central complete piece.

When asked if she considers herself an artist, Hadid replied.

“Artists can make space, architecture is much more complex. Architecture comes from a tremendous amount of complexity and that's what attracted me to it. Also the possibility of making space not only on canvas but in reality. It makes a big difference. People would call an artist, twenty, thirty years ago because it was a way of patronising architects who did not do normative work, and they were seen as fantasised through art. But one can say that there is an aspect of architecture that is art and another aspect that is science and logic of space. Then there is a part of me that is an artist.”

Hadid, Z. (2008) Interview with Rose, C. George Washington University, 5 June. [Online] Available at

The workings of Hadid's buildings in terms of organisational and strategic qualities can be brought into question. Do her abstractions and distortions of form negate that of function? Some may think that Hadid overly designs her aesthetic and does so forcefully. This is clearly suggested in the completion of the Vitra Fire station, where an error was made in not allowing enough room to house the fire engines which led to the redundancy of the buildings original function. It now stands as storage to the wider Vitra complex as well as an architectural museum to the architect, running guided tours throughout the weekdays. Despite this forthcoming the Vitra Fire station represents a large body of Hadid's research and development into deconstructivism and the culmination of many of her uncompleted projects such as that of the 1983's ‘The Peak, Hong Kong'.

The success of the Vitra Fire station as such can be measured in the fact that the client selected Hadid as the competition winner for the next project in the Vitra development. Despite tough competition to the likes of

Design Process Case Study - LF one, Weil am Rhein

‘Landscape Formation One' has been chosen as a fundamental part of this study due to it representing a specific ‘trend' in Hadid's design that has been progressed from since.

Design begins at Hadid Architects with delicate care towards models, drawings and paintings, all mediums remain vague at this stage with no forceful creation. Progressively the form will begin to emerge with close co-ordination to the site. Throughout Hadid's projects landscaping of the surrounding context has led a major role in form, volume and axis on the site. This is clearly prevalent in Hadid's ‘LF One' project located in Weil am Rhein, as the concept was to create a building that would serve as an artificial landscape that would physically embed itself within the topographically rich garden-scape of Weil am Rhein area.

We look at a city not only as a materialization of the planned but also as a materialization of the atmospheric”

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