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Jim Stephenson

Clerkenwell Design Week: Inside The Zaha Hadid Gallery

22 May 2013 Morgan Meaker

One of the best-loved events in the design industry calendar, Clerkenwell Design Week is a three-day annual festival gathering Clerkenwell’s long-established design community together. Now in its fourth year, the event has increasingly become a must go-to showcase for the UK and international design community.

A man sits down on a sofa and opens a small, polystyrene box. He peers down in anticipation at his lunch. The sofa is sleek, slate-black with a nipped in waist and curves that cradle the surrounding, empty space. On the other side of the room, a horrified gallery attendant leaps into action. The man is promptly ushered away to more suitable seating.

The sofa he left behind was the work of Zaha Hadid’s Architects. The practice is led by Zaha Hadid, a prolific figure renowned not only for her award-winning work, but also for her bold statements, slating the misogyny that exists in the world of British architecture.

To coincide with Clerkenwell Design Week, Zaha Hadid’s Goswell Road gallery has thrown open its doors to the public, unveiling a bold collection of stylish pieces from the past 30 years. “Really blowing people’s socks off is a big deal to Zaha”, our tour guide tells us on the gallery’s top floor which is open, by appointment, this week only.

Here, sits an impressive array of architectural models, dominated by the fluid, futuristic lines that are characteristic of the practice. We see buildings that have been realised and those that have not. The eclectic collection acts as a window into the collective open mindedness of Hadid’s architects; from the London Aquatics Centre, with its curvaceous, wave-like structure, to the hydrogen powered, zero emission Z Car.

On the lower-ground floor, shoes designed for Lacoste sit across the room from floating, spectral lampshades which trap light between their dislocated pieces. Around the corner a solid, 350kg aluminium egg (created for the Faberge Big Egg Hunt) creates interior volume through its splicing, explosive pattern and billowing from a corner is the model for a research centre in Saudi Arabia. In a torrent of geometric shapes, this latter piece is reminiscent of a cowering Transformer as five buildings are formed from crystalline patterns and connected by a sun-shading mesh.  

On the ground floor, shelves cling to the wall in a rhythmic display, echoing calligraphy as the pieces are locked in conversation with one another. Throughout the work, the boundaries between art and design are trampled and the practice lets its artistic tendencies spill over into the creation of galleries across the globe; think Italy’s MAXXI: Museum of XXI Century Arts or ROCA London Gallery.

The exhibition is particularly special, thanks to its fascinatingly broad spectrum of work. The models allow us to trace technology’s evolution from Perspex into the realms of 3D printing and we are given an insight into the finer points of the architectural process; the tampering with different materials, the dipping in and out of different fields of designs (including, transportation, residential and cultural) and the constant dialogue between architectural and funding bodies.

Strung together with poetic movement, Hadid merges sleek and bulbous forms, establishing herself as a true visionary and for many; this exhibition is set to act as an education in design.

For more information on Clerkenwell Design Week please click here.

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