Zaha Fantasy

 

Form in Motion, Philadelphia Museum of Art | Photo: +MOOD

Sunday is the last day to view “Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion” at the Perelman Building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The small but groundbreaking exhibit is a revealing lens on one aspect of the present wave of global urban architecture that sees buildings as extensions of the natural landscape rather than impositions of form.

Urban forms indeed are changing–advances in materials engineering is making it possible–and Hadid’s work is at the forefront. The exhibit itself, a landscape of her furniture and products, defies the rectilinear room in which it was installs.

This act is full of symbolism, for Hadid proposes a radically different urbanism, a characteristically visceral response to air and wind, mass and movement that could very well alter our understanding of how to live on this planet. Sit for a while in her earth chairs and watch the endless video simulations of her projects and you can see the world transforming in front of your eyes: here are buildings that rise from the landscape, that beckon us to walk in, on, around them.

Zaha Hadid: Regium, Italy

Back in November when I wrote a profile of Hadid for the Inquirer, I asked certain people if they thought she might one day be commissioned to do a project here. Most people looked at me like I was nuts. Some architects downplayed her importance. Others shrugged. One prominent cultural impresario said Philadelphia wasn’t ready, and probably never would be. There’s not enough literal or figurative space here for such a big thinker, said this person. Hadid would eat us for lunch.

Fearing our provincialism, on the night Hadid received the annual Collab Award for design excellence, a New Yorker was asked to lead the conversation.

Too bad, that attitude, yet another wasted opportunity, for indeed, there’s plenty of room–the waterfront and the Navy Yard most assuredly–for transformative architecture of the kind Hadid composes.

She’s now been here four times since her initial lecture at Philadelphia University in 1994, well before she was taken seriously. We’ve gotten a temporary room installation and a chance to show that we’re interested in avant-garde design. Next time, how about we take her down to the Navy Yard, let the ships and the bridges and the terracotta palaces speak to her and see what she has to say in response.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.



1 Comment


  1. Very cool designs and a great concept – building with the landscape instead of in spite of it. I don’t know if linear Philly is ready to accept these ideas, but I would love to see it happen.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
In Belmont, The Making Of A

In Belmont, The Making Of A “City Of Villas”

January 20, 2017  |  Vantage

Contributor Joshua Bevan takes us on an architectural tour of Belmont, where the origins and growth of the neighborhood can still be read in its distinctive homes > more

Shaping A New Urban Crossroads At 33rd And Chestnut

Shaping A New Urban Crossroads At 33rd And Chestnut

January 18, 2017  |  Vantage

Contributor Ann de Forest stands at the confluence of Penn and Drexel's campuses where a once listless intersection is being redefined with energy, connectivity, and strategic design > more

The Best Seats In The City, Ban Be Damned

The Best Seats In The City, Ban Be Damned

January 16, 2017  |  Buzz

Last week Friends of Rittenhouse Square and PPR announced a ban from sitting on the interior walls of the park. Two days later Mayor Jim Kenney reversed the rule. We take a look at life along the balustrades in these old photos > more

Capturing The Ghosts Of Demolition

Capturing The Ghosts Of Demolition

January 13, 2017  |  Last Light

The demolition composites of photographer Andrew Evans beguile the eye with ghostly images of a city passing through time. Evans presents his newest additions to the series and explains his process with this photo essay > more

Pencoyd Bridge Reopens In Manayunk, As Redevelopment Of Foundry Site Begins

Pencoyd Bridge Reopens In Manayunk, As Redevelopment Of Foundry Site Begins

January 11, 2017  |  Vantage

The deserted industrial site of Pencoyd Iron Works is next on a growing list of riverside redevelopment along the Schuylkill. Contributor Mick Ricereto takes us deep inside the history of the family-owned foundry and farmland that dates back to the city's founding > more

Urban Fantasy: The Carousel Maker Of Broad & Erie

Urban Fantasy: The Carousel Maker Of Broad & Erie

January 10, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

Traditional carousel design may have roots in Europe, but "Philadelphia Style" took the amusement ride to a whole new level. The Shadow takes a stroll down Germantown Avenue where the G.A. Dentzel Carousel Company became the gold standard in animal kingdom merry-go-rounds > more