Exhibition reveals architect Zaha Hadid’s artistic prowess

“There Should Be No End to Experimentation,” an exhibition exploring the conceptual early works of the late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid has opened in Hong Kong.

Originally conceived by Hadid and Serpentine Galleries, the show presents the Pritzker-Prize winner’s experimental paintings, calligraphic drawings and sketches. Many of the works presented predate her first realized building, the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

“She was a pioneer in so many different ways,” Serpentine Galleries’ artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist tells CNN, on an exclusive tour of the exhibition.

“She imagined all these buildings that defy gravity, and the amazing flow. The curves are always exotic and of course at the time when she did these drawings, no one could ever think these could be built. Before the technology, it was completely impossible to build such a complex building. It’s completely pre-digital. Zaha invented the digital age, before all the architecture tools.”

Obrist stops before “Malevich’s Tektonik,” a work of acrylic on paper, created by Hadid in 1976. “It obviously has the influence from Russian activism, Russian avant-garde, she was very inspired by the early 20th century in Russia.”

While the exhibition first showed in London late last year, the Hong Kong opening has been expanded with additional archival material, as well as a virtual reality component — and its location in the Asian metropolis, is particularly poignant in the architect’s career.

Hadid’s design for a leisure club, an entrant into the Peak competition in the early 1980’s for an architectural landmark in Kowloon, reveals the architect’s pioneering vision for unconventional forms and catapulted her to the international stage.

“It’s quite fitting that the show is in Hong Kong. It’s where Zaha got her first big break,” says M+ museum’s curator of design and architecture Aric Chen.

“It garnered enough attention to solidify her reputation at the forefront of architecture at the time. She had her way of inventing her own architectural language that would make the impossible, possible,” Chen said.

While the design took top prize, it was never built. But in Asia, Hadid has left her legacy in the region’s rapidly changing skylines. Among those include the Jockey Club Innovation Tower in Hong Kong, the Galaxy Soho in Beijing, and the Guangzhou Opera House in Southern China.

“Her ideas and her push to experiment was universal. I think the results resonated differently in different places,” Chen said.

“Certainly in China, the forms she created very much spoke to Chinese sensibility — in China of course there’s a long tradition of landscape paintings that infuses a real sublime meaning to the relationships to mountains and waters and other natural features, and a lot of her buildings capture that well.”

For more on “There Should Be No End to Experimentation” check out CNN Style’s previously recorded Facebook Live, a discussion between CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout and Serpentine Galleries’ artistic director Hans Ulrich Ubrist during an exclusive tour of the show in Hong Kong. The show will is at ArtisTree, Taikoo Place from March 17 thru April 6.

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