This chapter explores the importance of space to architecture. While the element of space was introduced in the previous chapter, here we’ll take an in-depth look at Zaha Hadid’s Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (1997-2003). We’ll analyze the different types of space this structure uses, how interior and exterior spaces are connected, and the building’s expression of a Deconstructivist architectural language.
The Goldberger chapter explores different types of architectural space, several of which are discussed in this section on Zaha Hadid. The Art Story resource provides a helpful overview of Hadid’s major works, including the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, and offers additional context by discussing Hadid’s biography.
- Paul Goldberger, “Architecture as Space,” Chapter 4 from Why Architecture Matters (available as an eBook from Portland Community College Library)
- “Zaha Hadid, Biography and Legacy” The Art Story, Content compiled and written by Dawn Kanter, edited and revised, with summary and accomplishments added by Kimberly Nichols, available from: https://www.theartstory.org/artist/hadid-zaha/.
The video embedded below highlights examples of Hadid’s architectural style, and complements the material presented in this chapter on the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art. It may be helpful, after watching the video and reviewing the material, to compare and contrast the Rosenthal Center with the MAXXI National Museum, discussed in the video..
- Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, “Zaha Hadid, MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts,” in Smarthistory, December 15, 2015, https://smarthistory.org/zaha-hadid-maxxi/.
Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker, “Zaha Hadid, MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts,” in Smarthistory, December 15, 2015, https://smarthistory.org/zaha-hadid-maxxi/.
Architect in Focus: Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) was an Iraqi-British architect known for her innovative designs that pushed the boundaries of architectural form. In 2004, she became the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in its 26 year history. This section will focus on Hadid’s use of the architectural element of space and will highlight how her work shapes the built environment using Deconstructivist forms.
Zaha Hadid & Space in Architecture
In Chapter 3 of this text, a broad definition of architectural space was introduced. We will expand on this definition using Zaha Hadid’s Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, and begun in 1997. When it opened to the public in 2003, this museum was Hadid’s first in the United States and the first American art museum to be designed by a woman. By studying Hadid’s dynamic structure, we can further explore architectural space by defining the different types of space her building demonstrates and discussing her work in the context of Deconstructivist architecture.
Physical, Perceptual, Directional, and Interwoven Space
Let’s briefly define four types of architectural space. Physical space is the volume of actual space a structure occupies. When considering a building’s physical space, you are looking at its physical footprint on the land. This is in contrast with perceptual space. We can define perceptual space as the perceived space a building occupies based on a fixed viewpoint. For example, if you’re by a window in the interior of a structure, looking out onto a large backyard, your perceptual space is increased, since your view pushes through the glass to the exterior.
The two photographs below show the exterior of Hadid’s Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art. Containing a total of 91,500 square feet, we can see the physical space the structure occupies on the street corner. In terms of scale, the building is roughly the same height as its neighbors, though is distinguished by its use of glazing, concrete, and black metal materials. The façade is organized into differently sized squares and rectangles, resembling a jigsaw puzzle. There is an irregular rhythm to the building, as the various geometric shapes seem to float along the façade, providing ample visual interest for the passerby on the street.
Directional space is the way a structure guides you in and through it. Think about, for example, how you get from one room to another. Are there long, straight hallways to guide you, or is your path more circuitous and meandering? When you are in an open space that allows you to wander in any direction, this is called non-directional space. Closely related to non-directional space is interwoven space. This type of space is very open and you are able to see into adjacent rooms easily.
In the image below, we can see the interior stairs of the Center for Contemporary Art. This stairway is a great example of directional space, since the visitor is physically guided through the six story building by the stairs. It is also a good example of perceptual space; notice how, from the stairwell, you can see through the large glass windows out onto the street. There is also transparency above you, through the black metal grid, to more glass. Here, the use of perceptual space makes the dark, narrow interior feel lighter and larger.
Zaha Hadid’s architectural style is often connected to Deconstructivism. Deconstructivism is an architectural language that emerged in the 1980s, which employs dramatic angles and curves, taking a more sculptural and fragmented approach to buildings. Decontructivists are also interested in designing structures that interact with public space more directly and assertively by distorting the standard elements of architecture.
For example, looking up from street level at the Contemporary Art Center, the great square slabs of the building’s façade project out at irregular intervals over the sidewalk and appear to hover above the viewer. This creates a sense of dislocation as the asymmetrical arrangements of the panels disrupt the viewer’s perception of space.
The building also invites the viewer in. Hadid didn’t want the Contemporary Art Center to be removed from the street corner, so conceived of what she called the urban carpet, which is the connection between the exterior and interior of the building. Take a look at the images below and notice the use of glass at the base; this allows the museum’s lobby to become a part of the bustling sidewalk right outside, rather than separate from it. Visually, pedestrians are led into the building by a gentle concrete curve that unites exterior and interior space by seamlessly moving through the glass base. There is also concrete seating that is mirrored from the exterior to the interior lobby.
At the end of this chapter, learners should be able to:
- Identify and define different types of architectural space.
- Describe the Deconstructivist architectural style and apply it to Zaha Hadid’s work.
- Compare and contrast Hadid’s work with Daniel Libeskind’s, discussed in the Defining Architecture chapter of this text.