Zaha Hadid modernizes Islamic design with winning Heydar Aliyev in Azerbaijan

Heydar Aliyev Center, Zaha Hadid, Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Islamic Architecture, Islamic design, daylighting, Iraqi architect, famous architectureThe London Design Museum bestowed upon Zaha Hadid the prestigious Design of the Year award for this incredible Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan, and there’s nothing green about it. But it does reinterpret fluid Islamic design in some interesting ways, and it really is a work of pure genius.

Zaha Hadid Architecture won an international competition to design the center in 2007. She told Dezeen that it’s her most important design to date.

Located in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, the Heydar Aliyev Center is designed to host the country’s cultural programs and activities while making a concise break from the rigid, formal architectural language prevalent in the Soviet Union.

Heydar Aliyev Center, Zaha Hadid, Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Islamic Architecture, Islamic design, daylighting, Iraqi architect, famous architecture

“The design of the Heydar Aliyev Center establishes a continuous, fluid relationship between its surrounding plaza and the building’s interior,” Hadid’s team write in their design brief for Dezeen.

“The plaza, as the ground surface; accessible to all as part of Baku’s urban fabric, rises to envelop an equally public interior space and define a sequence of event spaces dedicated to the collective celebration of contemporary and traditional Azeri culture.”

Heydar Aliyev Center, Zaha Hadid, Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Islamic Architecture, Islamic design, daylighting, Iraqi architect, famous architecture

Related: Comparing Qatar stadium to a vagina is “ridiculous” says Zaha Hadid

In order to achieve that fluid style which appears to push out of the surrounding urban fabric like a mountain, the design team led by Saffet Kaya Bekiroglu built a steel space frame and clad the exterior in overlapping glass-fiber reinforced concrete panels.

“Fluidity in architecture is not new to this region,” they add.

Heydar Aliyev Center, Zaha Hadid, Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Islamic Architecture, Islamic design, daylighting, Iraqi architect, famous architecture

“In historical Islamic architecture, rows, grids, or sequences of columns flow to infinity like trees in a forest, establishing non-hierarchical space. Continuous calligraphic and ornamental patterns flow from carpets to walls, walls to ceilings, ceilings to domes, establishing seamless relationships and blurring distinctions between architectural elements and the ground they inhabit.”

Heydar Aliyev Center, Zaha Hadid, Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan, Islamic Architecture, Islamic design, daylighting, Iraqi architect, famous architecture

Daylighting may offset some energy use, but frankly, from an environmental perspective, this building has virtually nothing to offer. From an engineering, design and maybe even especially from a cultural perspective, all accolades are definitely worthy.

Photos via Iwan Baan

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