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

Nathaniel Popkin is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including the forthcoming Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (Temple Press) and a novel, Lion and Leopard (The Head and the Hand Press). He is the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



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
Demo Prep Begins For Gothic Revival Church In West Philly

Demo Prep Begins For Gothic Revival Church In West Philly

April 20, 2018  |  News

Christ Memorial Reformed Episcopal Church, a mountainous 131-year-old Gothic Revival landmark in West Philly, prepares for the end. Michael Bixler has the news > more

Ghosts Of The Abandoned Arch Street Subway Line

Ghosts Of The Abandoned Arch Street Subway Line

April 18, 2018  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. takes us into the abandoned subway tunnels below Arch Street with the history behind Philly's unfinished plans for a grand underground transit system > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Tourison Building

Unlisted Philadelphia: Tourison Building

April 17, 2018  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places with his architectural illustration series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, an Art Deco delight fills the heart of Mount Airy > more

Old Iron Works In Logan Square To Face The Wrecking Ball

Old Iron Works In Logan Square To Face The Wrecking Ball

April 13, 2018  |  News

When the housing bubble burst and the recession hit in 2007, plans to convert Creswell Iron Works on Cherry Street into apartments tanked. The quaint collection of industrial buildings is now headed for demolition. Michael Bixler has the details > more

American Revolution Landmark To Be Auctioned Off At Sheriff Sale

American Revolution Landmark To Be Auctioned Off At Sheriff Sale

April 11, 2018  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia, News

Old stone home in Frankford with ties to the Declaration of Independence goes up for auction at a sherif sale in May. Harry K. has the news and history behind this threatened national landmark > more

Time Travel At Trader Joe's Reveals Tuxedos & Snazzy Shoes

Time Travel At Trader Joe’s Reveals Tuxedos & Snazzy Shoes

April 9, 2018  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow makes a run to Trader Joe's where fine footwear and totally awesome 1980s tuxedos kept things classy at 2121 Market Street > more