When I saw it inside the Arsenale, the pleated metal structure that forms the core of the installation and that is set to explore the possibilities offered by light-weight shells in combination with tensile structures, made me think about aluminium structures in fashion and in particular about Germana Marucelli's futuristic headgear. Yet the main purpose of the installation is not just to give an instant visual gratification to visitors, but to point out how the work of Zaha Hadid's studio is based on historical studies.
The architectural practice has often developed projects based on algorithmic form generation, rediscovering and taking forward the theories and work of previous architects and engineers who worked along these lines.
The best thing about "Arum" - surrounded by models of Zaha Hadid's trademark white futuristic and spaceship-like buildings - is that it is not a self-sufficient artwork, but it's explored against a background of the practice's influences.
Hadid's roof shell structures, such as the London Aquatic Centre, the Nordpark Railway Station, Chanel Contemporary Art Container, the Heydar Aliyev Centre and the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, are indeed surrounded by the work of Felix Candela, Heinz Isler and Frei Otto, all focusing on materials and fluidity of forms and spaces.
Otto (he designed the West Germany Pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, remember?) achieved the most elegant designs on the basis of material-structural form-finding processes, while Candela (1910-1997) gained recognition in his life for his thin light concrete vaults. Hadid's display features, among the others, also models of Candela's Parroquia de San Antonio de las Huertas, Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico, and of his Caseta de ventas del Fraccionamiento Verde Valle Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
Swiss engineer Heinz Isler (1926-2009) is regarded around the world as one of the pioneers of shell structures. He became known for his experimental method of form-finding and for his expressive shell structures produced in thin-walled concrete.
Natural shell shapes piqued his curiosity and sense of wonder and he developed three physical processes of form-finding for shells: expansion forms out of growing foam, pneumatic forms out of pressurised rubber sheets and hanging forms out of cloth. Almost all his designs are based on one of these experimental processes.
Fascinated by the study of shell form Isler stated: “Shell structures have an nherent capacity to express structural beauty (…) the virtually unlimited potential of nongeometric shell-shapes especially pleased me because of their high aesthetic value”.
Throughout his career Isler realised over 1400 shell structures in Switzerland alone. There are quite a few models by Isler taken from the Isler Archive, ETH Zurich, showcased as part of Hadid's display, among the others there are also two design development models for a gas station in Deitingen, Switzerland, 1967, made using glassfibre reinforced with epoxy, metal and wood.
Hadid's “Arum” is not only shown against a background of artefacts from these pioneers, but the lineage is extended forwards in the work of Philippe Block, an architectural engineer and contemporary researcher of stone compression shells, and in new researches involving also masonry structures and showing how the past is inspiring new designs and innovations in masonry vaulting also thanks to digital stereotomy.
The most interesting thing about the display in general is that it tackles different issues and shows quite intricate, twisted and modular shapes and forms that may result inspiring not just for architects but also for artists and fashion designers.
The studio recently explored new ways of digitally generating intensive and extensive qualities and establishing intricate relationships within architectural systems and subsystems in order to form complex and coherent spatial arrangements.
Its students also set onto analysing the semiological capacities of parametrically generated architectural forms. This year's research focused in particular on shell structures and their manifold potentials, calling for the research and development of innovative spatial models for sport venues such as the Olympic Park Rio de Janeiro 2016.
Students developed systematic catalogues of urban and architectural prototypes with regard to their semiological readability in respect to the urban, spatial, programmatic or social parameters deducted from the specific program. The design of these proto-architectural elements is based on the thorough research of different shell structures and their formal, spatial, technological and structural properties and their multiple potentials for parametric differentiation.
In the last few years Hadid worked on different fashion-related projects and last Friday she took part in the Vidal Sassoon memorial service at London's St Paul's Cathedral (well, architecture was one component of Sassoon's hairstyles, so having an architect at his memorial service seemed very apt), but her forms and shapes also inspired quite a few fashion designers.
The latest is Iglika Vasileva Matthews. Originally from Bulgaria, Matthews earned a BFA in Textile Design from Varna Free University and then got her MFA degree in Fashion Design from the Academy of Art University. At the AAU Degree show that took place in September during New York's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, Matthews presented her graduate collection, mainly based on a neutral palette.
Rather than by "form-finding" processes, Matthews was naturally prompted by the main aim of all fashion designers, that is "finding form", but she drew inspiration for her garments from Hadid's buildings and from her structures that create an illusion of movement in static objects. The young designer tried to replicate this effect in her collection through tailored suits that, though characterised by rigid lines, still retained a certain softness.Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
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