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The Complete Zaha Hadid (Expanded and Updated) by Aaron Betsky (Introduction), Thames & Hudson, US $40, Pp 320, January 2018, 978-0500343357

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) was one of the most original architects of our times. She started receiving critical acclaim much before she started building what she drew. There was a strong opinion that her architectural plans were not meant to be built. However, during her later years of life, her creative plans became realities in the forms of the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, the Glasgow Riverside Museum, the Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum in Michigan, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul, the Dominion Office Building in Moscow, and the Port House in Antwerp. In 2004, Zaha Hadid won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, discipline’s highest honor.

In The Complete Zaha Hadid, Aaron Betsky gives a comprehensive introduction to her life and work and shines a light on previously unexplored aspects of her life and work with the help of more than two hundred projects from her earliest works to the gigantic projects built in the latter part of her life. The Complete Zaha Hadid includes 700 color illustrations that include large-scale paintings, sculpture-like models, multi-perspective drawings, and dynamic computer renderings, Organized chronologically over Hadid’s career.

What distinguished Zaha Hadid from her contemporaries is the fact that, as Aaron Betsky writes, she was also a great cinematographer. Betsky says that Zaha Hadid perceived the city in slow motion, in pans, in swoops, in close-ups, in jump-cuts, and narrative rhythms. As she drew the world around her, she drew out its unconscious spaces. She found what is latent in the construction of our modern world and storyboarded them into utopias. Zaha Hadid always wanted to build, and her images were part of the process that moved her towards construction. Zaha Hadid’s buildings are free to reach out from density to create spaces that are free of encumbrances. Where there was once (the potential) for private activity, walls, and pipes, there are now shards and planes that slice through the landscape to open up a space we did not know could exist. Betsky says that Zaha Hadid built her career in architecture in a similar manner.

Zaha Hadid was a modernist, designing lofts tied to technological cores as a celebration of the new. Zaha Hadid had no truck with typologies, applied orders, implied assumptions, or gravity. She believed that we could and should build a better world, one marked by freedom, above all else. We would be liberated from the past, from the constraints of social convention, from physical laws, and free of our bodies. For Zaha Hadid, architecture was the always fragmentary construction of such a world. Zaha Hadid’s work did not have only the Western roots associated with modernity. As she was born into an Iraqi family, she had a fascination with the Persian carpets of her youth, the intricate pattern that defeated comprehension and emboldened the collaborative efforts of hands transforming reality into a sensuous surface, simply space into lush ones.

For a while, the landscape became a dominant preoccupation in Zaha Hadid’s work. If the volumes of her designs were increasingly fluid, so were their exteriors. In projects like the Museum of Islamic Arts in Qatar [1997], the building becomes no more or less than a ripple undulating out of the site, moving up to encompass spaces and then dying back down into the ground. Courtyard slots weave space and solid together like a Persian carpet, but also like rivers or lakes, and move in and out of the land. Inside this new world, however, there is a different reality. It is one Zaha Hadid most fully explored in a project such as her scheme for The Mind Zone exhibit in London’s Millennium Dome [1998-200]. The complex interweaving of spaces and forms is smoothed over by the landscape-like skins, but with a flip of a wall, the contours of the landscape become overhanging prows.

The Complete Zaha Hadid is probably the most comprehensive book on Zaha Hadid and her work. It is packed with knowledge about Zaha Hadid and modern American architecture. As the dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and a former director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, Betsky gives new and fresh perspectives on Zaha Hadid’s work as an architect. He shows what makes her one of the best modernist architects of our times. The Complete Zaha Hadid is a testimony to the depth of Zaha Hadid’s vision from a leading historian of American architecture. This beautifully-manufactured book is a must-read for everybody interested in American architecture and belongs to every chic living room.

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