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Meera Jain

Zaha Hadid. As the only women to receive the most illustrious award in architecture, her style embodies difference and individuality. Zaha Hadid was born in Iraq and educated herself in London and the United States. On May 31st 2004 she was awarded the Pritzker Prize for architecture, equivalent of the Nobel. Her mind reverberates with refreshing imagination and immaculate taste that can be seen in her designs, and I am drawn to her work.

Her architecture comes away from tradition, experiencing them once, is enough to paint a vivid picture for a lifetime. I find her architecture beautiful because they are not simple; I am drawn to complexity. It takes patience and insight to understand what she created and how it was done. This is beauty. I am intrigued by natural beauty, like a flower or sunrise, but Hadid combined natural and manmade elements into a functional workplace with personality and uniqueness. She gives her viewer the opportunity to really question the notion of beauty in her work.

John Dewey succinctly explained this, "in order to understand the esthetic meaning of artistic products, we have to forget them for a time, to turn aside from them and have recourse to the ordinary forces and conditions of experience that we don't usually regard as aesthetic." Zaha Hadid's abstraction forced me to step away from the esthetic value and delve deeper find out something about the forces behind her design.

When I first saw the Bergisel Ski Jump, Austria in Architectural Digest, it took me a moment to understand, because it was so abstract. The ski jump reminds me of water slide with a control tower attached; and it is lit with iridescent pink lights. On first glance, you would have no clue as to what purpose it serves, which makes the knowledge behind it an experience. Furthermore, it was clear that I was having an esthetic incident that Dewey describes, "it has esthetic the work becomes an experience" Hadid has a strangely beautiful way of using science, technology and space to transform common places such as a train terminal in Naples, Italy into a futuristic hub of travel.

My past experiences made Zaha Hadid's masterpieces stand out in my mind; I was a young seventh grader with a fascination for art, pop music and junk food. Fortunately, these interests led me in the right direction, to one of my now favorite architects.

We were living in Hong Kong at the Repulse Bay, which used to be a luxurious hotel and was converted to an expatriate apartment building. This apartment building can be seen in many tourist books and magazines for it's religious symbolism and distinctive design. It has a large rectangle in the center, so the "dragon" living on the hill behind can cross through the building to the ocean and blesses it while passing through. Living in such a famous place, I was intrigued by the beauty of my home and picked up my first copy of Architectural Digest to find out more. The magazine encompasses exceptional architectural renovations, interior design, and antique/estate homes. In that magazine, on a balmy fall day looking out to the Repulse Bay I glimpsed at Zaha Hadid's work.

After living in such an exclusive and beautiful building, I searched for other architects who created buildings with a story behind it. Another one of my favorite buildings by Hadid is the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati because of the vivification described, "It will be linked with street-level life through an "urban carpet" that ascends into a series of galleries and support-spaces. These will be connected by an active, switchback vertical spine, combining ramps and stairs. Degrees of transparency, translucency, and opacity provide internal and external vistas to help overcome a restricted site in keeping with the revitalized mission of the CAC."

The building is made of concrete and bright blue glass, which to me made the gray city block more physically appealing. The exterior surface has different rectangles appearing to be suspended in air and there is one large rectangle of a darker color that stands out and Hadid captures the viewer.

Reviewing Hadid's architecture on my laptop with a classical Indian soundtrack playing in the background made my newer experience richer than I could imagine. I have yet to visit one of her buildings, but I undergo a more refreshing visit than others might have. Hadid has a conscious idea which Dewey supports, "it is proof that man uses materials and energies of nature with intent to expand his own life...and its intervention also leads in time to the idea of art as a conscious idea- the greatest intellectual achievement in the history of humanity."

Hadid is idiosyncratic; she doesn't need her art in a famous city to have it appreciated. Another difference is that Hadid creates buildings that can be functionally used such as a warehouse, car park terminal or opera house so it becomes part of our daily life. Furthermore, I feel and see the common day beauty in them; it is unlike viewing an Edward Degas in a museum for the sole purpose of viewing. Hadid instead amalgamates usefulness and picturesque in her work. She is an internationally acclaimed architect; I treasure her work more because she constructs most of her buildings in Europe. Therefore if I were to visit Europe, the experience of seeing them would enhance my perspicacity for her architecture.

Zaha Hadid's first project was the Vitra Fire Station; it is a small structure and was constructed as a working firehouse. Eventually, the complex was declared obsolete and now is a showplace for a permanent collection of chairs. Within the building there are many optical tricks and Hadid's interplay of angles and color ensures the building's interior is visually interesting without making it boring. One specific connection is to le Corbusier's Notre Dame du Haut where Hadid seems to display the front end of a large ship, with its sharp end and overstated height.

The experience of beauty, for myself, is Hadid's flawlessness. I admire the idea of never seeing a copy of her building in someone's living room, not being able to buy a small replica of them in a souvenir shop, visiting rare locations to view them while being enveloped by her imagination and that no other artist could elicit these emotions I get when seeing her architecture. The experience is contingent on the veracity and poignancy of Zaha Hadid work. Although I wont be experiencing beauty the way Percy describes it, by "leaving the beaten path...and finding an unspoiled place undiscovered by others" I am sure I will still enjoy the Bergisel Ski Jump in Austria while sitting atop drinking hot chocolate.

Despite the typical beauty qualities an object might have to be considered beautiful, the experience is what seems to be more imperative. I believe that sitting on that balcony in Hong Kong made me appreciate her work more; the experience I was savoring let me see below the surface. Within the snapshots and recounted magazine articles, I found the electrifying aspect of her masterpieces. "True beauty dwells in deep retreats" by Williams Wordsworth, recapitulates my beautiful experience with the buildings of Zaha Hadid.

Repusle Bay Apartment, Hong Kong
The view from the balcony taken from (

Repulse Bay Apartments, Hong Kong
The front of the building. The large rectangle in the center made the building famous.

For more images -(

The Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati

Innsbruck Bergisel Ski Jump, Innsbruck, Austria

Vitra Fire Station, Weil am Rhein, Germany

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