Zaha Hadid – Heydar Aliyev


In 2006 Zaha Hadid, the iraqi-born, Stirling and Pritzer-price winning architect won the competition to build the cultural center Heydad Aliyev in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.

The building had to symbolize the times of renewal that the asian country is going through with a majority muslim population, but officially a secular state. It was a soviet republic for over 70 years, located in the caucasus, a neighboring country of russia, georgia, turkey, armenia and iran.

The center, designed to become the main building of the national cultural programs, was also born to express the sensibility of the azeri culture and the optimism of a nation that looks to the future.

The current president is Ilham Aliyev, since 2003. He is the son of the national leader and “father” of the country’s independence that took place in 1991 and which is celebrated with the construction of the namesake building in question, Heydar Aliyev.

He remained in power for more than 30 years, minutely detailed in the biographical museum that is part of Hadid’s building.

The design of the heydar aliyev center establishes a connection between the surrounding square and the inside of building, making it continuous and fluid. The square, available for everyone as a part of the urban fabric of Baku, rises to wrap an inner space, also public, and defines a sequence of spaces for events dedicated to collective celebration of their own culture, both contemporary and traditionally azeri.

We can read waves, forks, folds and inflections, transforming the surface of the square into an architectural landscape that performs multiple functions: as a reception, as a guidance to visitors through different levels of the inside and the shelter.

The building combines and nuances the conventional distinction between the architectural object and the urban landscape, constructing as shape and as background, the building shell and the urban square, inside and outside; the fluidity, traditionally represented in the historical Islamic architecture, establishes sequences to infinity, creating non-hierarchical spaces and relations without clear connections between the architectural elements and their surroundings.

The project is a smart use of which, at first, could be a disadvantage: an irregular topography. To this end, terraces are all connected, forming alternative routes, the building, the public square and the underground parking.

We can find two building systems which work closely: a concrete structure and a spatial structure system that allow the achievement of spaces of huge scale, free from columns, allowing visitors to feel the fluidity that the inner space gives.

The lighting emphasizes the continuous relationship between the inside and the outside of the building; its design was a strategy to distinguish the reading of the day from the reading of the night. By day, the volume of the building reflects light, modifying its appearance according to the time of day and the perspective from which the observer is located. By night, the building is gradually moving into the outer spaces thanks to the inside lighting.

To close, it has to be said that this building won the architecture category in the seventh edition of the Design of the Year in 2014, promoted by the Design Museum in London and chosen from 70 candidates from different categories. It was also the first time what a woman won the architecture category.

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