While Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) is rightly regarded as an architectural pioneer and visionary, this unique Serpentine presentation also reveals her as an artist with drawing at the very heart of her work. The work includes paintings, calligraphic drawings and rarely seen private notebooks with sketches that show her complex thoughts about architecture’s forms and relationships.
The exhibition focused on Hadid’s early works before her first building (Vitra Fire Station, Germany) was erected in 1993. Ranging from the 1970s to the early 1990s, the paintings and drawings on show include Hadid’s first internationally acclaimed project, The Peak (1982-3), awarded first prize in a design competition for a leisure club in the Hong Kong hills – marking a critical moment in Hadid’s career.
Drawing and painting were fundamental to Hadid’s practice. Influenced by Malevich, Tatlin and Rodchenko, she used calligraphic drawings as the main method for visualising her architectural ideas. For Hadid, painting was a design tool, and abstraction an investigative structure for imagining architecture and its relationship to the world we live in. These works on paper and canvas unravel an architecture that Hadid was determined to realise in built structures and that was later seen in the characteristic lightness and weightlessness of her buildings. Conceived as Hadid’s manifesto of a utopian world, the show reveals her all-encompassing visions of space and reality.
Technology and innovation have always been central to the work of Zaha Hadid Architects and many of Hadid’s paintings prefigure the potential of these digital processes. Connecting directly with the individual paintings in this exhibition, four experimental virtual reality experiences wer specially developed offering a dynamic and immersive insight into Hadid’s architectural vision.
Building on this commitment to technology, a dedicated mobile tour in both English and Chinese, was also available as part of an ongoing digital engagement programme at the Serpentine Galleries. Available through visitors’ mobile phones, the mobile tour offered ArtisTree visitors an interactive gallery experience including stories, audio clips and additional drawings from the Hadid collection. In addition, a screening room in the exhibition featuring exclusive footage from the Zaha Hadid archive, was also made available.