The State Hermitage Museum held its first retrospective exhibition of Zaha Hadid’s architectural works in Russia, from 27 June to 27 September 2015. The exhibition displayed over 300 paintings, models, sketches, photographs and design objects created by Zaha Hadid during her career, nearing four decades long.
Kazimir Malevich’s painting “Black Square” (1915) was the starting point for the exhibition, recalling Hadid’s influence by the artist’s work in her own. The retrospective continued with Zaha Hadid’s unrealized project of a hotel on the Hugerford Bridge,“Malevich’s Tektonik” (1976-1977, London), and “Peak Leisure Club” (1982-1983) in Hong Kong, among others. These early works are largely the result of Hadid’s exploration of the Russian avant-garde.
Drawn to the philosophy of Russian futurists who challenged the artistic convention of their time by breaking up with all rules and norms, creating world of artistic utopias; the core idea of Zaha Hadid and other pioneers of deconstructivism in architecture is to subdue the logic, the very sense of structure’s stability letting the forms “follow fiction” rather than “function.”
“Zaha Hadid dared to abolish and replace the most basic principles of architecture, for example, building’s tectonics. She cares little about any technical difficulties; she despises the Earth’s gravity,” Svyatoslav Gaikovich, honored architect of Russia and head of architecture bureau “Studio17” shared his reflections on the retrospective with ArchiExpo.
On display in the form of scaled models, photographs and video installations were her recent projects including Guangzhou Opera House (2003-2010), London Aquatics Centre (2005-2011), MAXXI: Museum of XXI Century Art (1998-2009) in Rome, Heydar Aliyev Center (2007-2012) in Baku, and controversial, as most of Zaha Hadid’s projects are, Tokyo’s New National Stadium among others.
The retrospective itself is a creation of Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher, her senior office partner, in cooperation with the Hermitage. According to Ksenia Malich, the exhibition curator, this is the first time when an outsider had been invited to work in the historical space of neoclassical Nicholas Hall that used to host royal banquets and balls.
Convincing the audience that modern architecture can be an art, and not a threat to aesthetics, was one of the challenges for Zaha Hadid: St. Petersburg is famous for being excessively conservative regarding modern architecture interfering in a historic setting. Many internationally renowned architects—including Eric Moss, Dominic Perrault, Norman Foster and Tony Kettle—have fallen victim to this conservatism.