CULTURE

A sharp architectural vision

Contrary to the kind of rumors that accompany her appearances (such as being inaccessible, strict, difficult and with a bulk of work which in most cases never materializes), Zaha Hadid’s presence in Athens last week created quite a new image. She is a person of real beauty and genuine allure, pointing to her Iraqi origins (she was born in Baghdad), her boundless wit and humor – she kept teasing her Greek colleague in charge of the slide show – and a lot of accomplished work. There was one myth, however, that she couldn’t shake off with her lecture at the Athens Concert Hall. Zahid, the only woman who managed to penetrate the predominantly male lobby of international architecture, makes a tremendous impression on the young generation. The turnout at the concert hall’s new wing last week was impressive. Hundreds of anxious young people had gathered in order to secure a pass for the lecture – which was part of the Megaron Plus series – and for anyone unaware of who was going to talk at the Alexandra Trianti Hall, an architect would probably not have been the first one to come to mind. In the end, a large number of people who didn’t manage to enter the auditorium found consolation in watching the lecture on a video wall installed in the foyer. In his welcoming remarks, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis was warm and generous: «Zaha Hadid discovers new landscapes because she has the eye of a creator. She goes beyond the ordinary and turns free thinking into architectural realism. She turns the imaginary into the feasible and proves that the most important element of the human spirit is originality,» he said. He also used a phrase of Hadid’s, defining the role of buildings as nothing more than protection from the rain and nourishment to the soul. A short introduction by architect Memos Filippidis followed. Besides offering a concise biographical note, he placed Hadid on the global architectural scene and insisted on the uniqueness of her case. At the beginning of her speech, Hadid tried to break the notion of her being an inaccessible star and difficult to pin down. She used flattering words for the Greeks in her life, paying special tribute to her «great teacher,» Elias Zengelis, her professor at the celebrated Architectural Association School of Architecture. Though her speech (which lasted for a little over an hour) was devoted to architectural concerns, there were a number of small, careful, personal touches as well: «I’m not serious, usually,» she confessed while teasing her Greek colleague, adding that given that architecture is such a strenuous profession, it takes a combination of humor and callousness in order to pull through. In her speech, Hadid attempted to decode her personal vocabulary through the presentation of rich material, including studies and realized works. «I always said that I hated nature, I prefer taking care of artificial landscapes,» she said in one of her philosophical, more provocative remarks, as the auditorium filled with images of her characteristic obsessions: architectural X-rays of compressed levels, reversed geometric shapes, deconstructed environments, three-dimensional designs, jagged axes, dramatic gorges, and gulfs, ramps and flyovers. In the end, what she proved was that her kind of nature blossoms in the interiors of constructions taking a peek into future life.