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-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and 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
Preservation Task Force Gears Up For Final Report

Preservation Task Force Gears Up For Final Report

July 20, 2018  |  News

Mayor Kenney's Historic Preservation Task Force rounds the corner with a draft of recommendations in hand. Starr Herr-Cardillo has the news > more

It Ain't History--Yet. We Seek Ideas On How And Why To Save The Philadelphia History Museum

It Ain’t History–Yet. We Seek Ideas On How And Why To Save The Philadelphia History Museum

July 18, 2018  |  Vantage

The city that incubates the "most innovative public history practice in the country" can and should find a way to reinvent its city museum. We query the experts to get the conversation started > more

King of The Rats: How One Female Scientist Colonized The Modern Lab

King of The Rats: How One Female Scientist Colonized The Modern Lab

July 16, 2018  |  Vantage

Mickey Herr takes a look at the Wistar Rat, a true Philly original, and the groundbreaking female biologist that helped standardize science > more

Two New Historic Districts And Grand Court Protected

Two New Historic Districts And Grand Court Protected

July 13, 2018  |  News

Historical Commission says "yes" to 17 new additions to the local register. Starr Herr-Cardillo has the news > more

Victorian-era Philly Bicycle Routes Now Available Online

Victorian-era Philly Bicycle Routes Now Available Online

July 11, 2018  |  News

Rutgers University Libraries releases maps and tour guides of old Philadelphia bicycle routes from the 1890s. Julie Still gives us the details > more

RePoint Targets Preservation Crisis With Political Action

RePoint Targets Preservation Crisis With Political Action

July 10, 2018  |  Vantage

Dana Rice takes a look at RePoint Philadelphia, a new historic preservation PAC that aims to battle weak policies and procedures with political sway > more