Taschen's titanic 'complete works' series gets a welcome addition in the form of a monumental monograph on the works of Zaha Hadid. Complete Works 1979 to 2009 charts three decades of an evolving aesthetic that initially seemed destined to remain confined to paper.
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Hadid's early work was a breath of fresh air in the post modernist-clogged 1980s, at a time when hi tech was just starting to turn bland and the halcyon days of modernist exuberance were all but forgotten. It was also a pre-digital era, with Hadid making her very singular marks through the medium of painting, drawing on the heroic abstractions of the Russian Constructivists. Her work had to be deciphered; the tilting, panning and swooping we now all take for granted was taking place entirely inside the architect's head.
As a result of this complexity, real work seemed hard to come by. High profile competition wins translated into equally high profile disappointments, saddling Hadid with an unfair reputation as purveyor of the unbuildable. But then slowly and surely, the buildings began to arrive, with modest commissions like the Vitra Fire Station leading to larger and larger works.
Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center (2003) was perhaps her breakthrough into the big league, a cultural centre that was also an adept piece of urbanism, without obvious resort to the shallow, eye-popping iconism that subsequently became so fashionable.
The modern age
Working in close collaboration with Patrik Schumacher, as well as a veritable army of digitally adept designers, Hadid's work is utterly characteristic of the modern age; dynamic, flowing forms that create a kind of digital baroque, in love with spatial intrigue, material advances and, above all, the advances in computing and manufacture that have allowed a literal transition from screen to the physical realm.
Today we're almost inured to the many imitators of these extravagant shapes, as they make their way from lush computer renders to dramatic reality, joined by the veritable constellation of domestic goods that Hadid has had a hand in creating along the way. The originals are still the best, however.
The Complete Works
Complete Works collects them all, wrapped up a text by Taschen's regular architecture scribe Philip Jodidio. The large format gives her drawings, paintings and models room to breathe, leading you through 100-odd pages of architectural 'what-ifs' before the first built interiors start to arrive.
In the past five years, Hadid has taken her place at world architecture's high table, with the Pritzker Prize in the bag and commissions on almost every continent (although admittedly, there are plenty of projects here that may never see the light of day, thanks to over-optimistic clients in the pre-crunch era). Complete Works serves as a fascinating record of architectural fame, the slow ascent to recognition following by a glowing stardom that looks set to burn brightly for many decades to come.