Posts tagged with "Zaha Hadid Architects":

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Patrik Schumacher claims he was forced to drop Zaha Hadid’s name from ZHA

A fuller picture of Patrik Schumacher’s battle with the three other executors of the late Zaha Hadid’s estate has come to light courtesy of a series of legal documents obtained by BDonline. In the 20-page document, Schumacher lays out a series of allegations against his co-trustees, including claims that he was “forced” to drop Hadid’s name from her practice and that he was barred from speaking at her 2016 memorial service. The divisions between Schumacher and the other trustees of Hadid’s $90 million estate—her niece Rana Hadid, friend Brian Clarke, and developer Lord Peter Palumbo—first emerged on November 14 of last year. Schumacher, a principal at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), had gone before London’s High Court and issued a claim asking that he be authorized as the estate’s sole trustee. His fellow executors and colleagues penned an open letter in response, claiming that Schumacher was operating in his own interest, not that of the estate. In a follow-up, Schumacher took to AN’s comment section to defend himself, claiming that his detractors weren’t aware of the full story. Now more of his claims have come to light. Schumacher claims that the other three trustees “forced” him to remove Hadid’s name from her eponymous practice. He also alleges that the studio, referred to in the documents as Zaha Hadid Limited (ZHL), was forced to move $9.8 million to a holding company owned by the other executors. Schumacher writes that he was coerced into going along with the will of the executors under the threat of being removed from ZHA. His continued participation in the firm’s business was included in a “letter of wishes” written by Hadid at the same time as her will in April of 2015, although Rana Hadid claims that Schumacher received that concession by barging into a meeting between Zaha Hadid and her lawyers (a claim he denies). In an excerpt from the documents held by BDonline, Schumacher wrote: “ZHL is a major asset of the estate. It is evident from the ‘letter of wishes’ that Dame Zaha intended it to be transferred to Mr Schumacher and its employees as a going concern. Rather than honouring that wish, the defendants have delayed the transfer and have acted and continue to act in a manner detrimental to ZHL. They have transferred cash and other assets to ZHH [ZHL's parent company] and the foundation despite reducing ZHL’s capacity to carry out business. “Further, they have sought to undermine Mr Schumacher’s ability to lead and control ZHL as envisaged by the ‘letter of wishes,’ and have taken steps to control ZHL directly by means of taking control of its sole shareholder ZHH. “Given Mr Schumacher’s role in ZHL, the defendants’ personal animosity towards him has coloured their decision-making with regard to ZHL and has resulted in their taking decisions that have been manifestly to ZHL’s detriment.” For their part, the other executors have claimed that they’re only acting in good faith, writing in November that they were personally chosen by Hadid to represent and further her best interests. A statement from Zaha Hadid Architects on the matter was provided as follows: "We hope this matter can be settled quickly and amicably, to the satisfaction of all parties. After another successful year, the practice goes from strength to strength and our business is unaffected by the subject matter of the dispute. We remain focused on serving our clients and building on the achievements of Dame Zaha."
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Zaha Hadid Architects launches a collaborative VR experiment

Virtual reality is often an individual experience, with one user shaping and traversing a preprogrammed digital realm. But what if complete strangers could gather together within the virtual realm to construct an architectural edifice? Project Correl is an experiment by the Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality Group (ZHVR) in what it describes as “multi-presence virtual reality,” where users can collaborate on an ever-changing sculptural form. Project Correl is a feature of the larger Design as Second Nature exhibition found in Mexico City’s Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), which features photographs, paintings, models, and other mediums highlighting the firm’s in-house technological research. As part of the exhibition, Zaha Hadid Architects’ Computation and Design group collaborated with ETH Zurich to create a 13-foot-tall curved concrete shell formed with a 3-D-knitted framework, dubbed KnitCandela. The VR experiment allows up to four visitors at a time to roam a digital space and manipulate objects found within. The overarching objective for the participants is the collaborative construction of a virtual structure. Over the course of the three-month-long exhibition, successive waves of visitors will immerse themselves in the continually adapting construct, imprinting it with their own personal elements along the way. Collaboration between participants is encouraged by the program's software; components directly attached to the primary structure within the simulation will remain throughout the course of the experiment. Stand-alone objects must be connected to growing clusters of user-assembled edifices to last throughout the exhibition. Objects that remain solitary will be periodically eliminated from the virtual space. Throughout the running of Project Correl, ZHVR will capture the altering iterations of the experiment and 3-D-print models for display within the exhibition. To create and operate the virtual reality engine, ZHVR worked with Unreal Engine, HP Virtual Reality Solutions, and HTC VIVE. The latter is a novel virtual reality platform allowing for in-depth room-scale, real-time interactions. Project Correl and Design as Second Nature will be on display until March 3, 2019.
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Zaha Hadid Architects to design glacier-inspired metro stations in Oslo

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and Norway-based A-Lab have been chosen to design the new Fornbuporten and Fornebu Senter metro stations in Oslo, Norway. Aside from being Norway's capital, Oslo is known for its innovative architecture, like Snøhetta's award-winning Oslo Opera House, and rich past as a gateway for shipping and maritime trade in Europe. The Fornebubanen metro line and its accompanying stations will only add to Oslo’s cultural appeal, serving as a vital new mode of public transit and connecting up-and-coming neighborhoods to the city center. The five-mile-long Fornebubanen metro line will run through an underground tunnel and connect to six stations, two of which will be designed by ZHA. Those two stations are intended to reflect Norway’s breathtaking landscape—characterized by hilly islands, rocky glaciers, and northern lights. At the Fornebu Senter station, buildings will be carved to resemble mountains and fjords, their canyon-like curves directing the flow of commuters to and from the street. The Fornbuporten station will contain two public spaces designed to geometrically mimic the dramatic landscape of Norway, including an oval canopy and civic park to the north and a layered, orthogonal pavilion to the south. Both stations will be flooded with moody, celestial lighting that varies depending on the time of day, symbolizing the mutable Oslo sky while uplifting passengers’ spirits. According to ZHA, it will take only 12 minutes to travel to the city center once all six stations are completed. The construction of the Fornebubanen metro line will be one of Oslo’s most impressive undertakings, revolutionizing the city and bringing communities together. Construction will likely begin in 2020 and top out by 2025.
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Zaha Hadid’s friends and colleagues pen open letter against Patrik Schumacher

To the Editor: We are a group of close friends, fellow and former students, and employees of Zaha Hadid. We wish to express our utmost concern at the recent legal action by Patrik Schumacher against Zaha’s fellow executors. We strongly support Lord Peter Palumbo, Brian Clarke, and Rana Hadid’s efforts to fulfill Zaha’s wishes regarding the settlement of her estate, determining conclusively the future structure and governance of her office (ZHA), and the development of the Zaha Hadid Foundation, all as stipulated in her will. Schumacher’s public behavior and proclamations since Zaha’s passing are well known and they speak for themselves. What is not publicly known is the extent to which he has been attempting to thwart Zaha’s last wishes. Zaha’s unique legacy must be protected. It is of paramount importance that the Zaha Hadid Foundation is established and fully endowed to fulfill the promulgation of her educational vision. Hadid’s internationally acclaimed status is based on her oeuvre. The Foundation must be an autonomous body responsible for this unique archive comprising drawings, models, sketches and project-related material from her student days until her untimely death. The Foundation’s role is twofold: to safeguard the material and to make it the foundation of any future academic inquiry both of her contributions and equally, academic investigations inspired by it. Signed by: Mya Manakides Nicholas Boyarsky Lisette Khalastchi Robert Cole Sand Helsel Michael Wolfson David Gommersal Brian Ma Siy Alastair Standing Graham Modlen Kathleen Peacock Ban Shubber Rodney Place Miska Lovegrove
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Patrik Schumacher sues to become sole executor of Zaha Hadid’s estate

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) principal Patrik Schumacher issued a claim in London’s High Court earlier today in an attempt to remove the other three executors of Dame Zaha Hadid's will from her $90 million estate. Those executors include Zaha’s niece, Rana Hadid, artist and friend Brian Clarke, and developer and current Pritzker Prize jury chairman Lord Peter Palumbo. The three executors, all trustees of the Zaha Hadid Foundation, immediately released a joint statement slamming Schumacher’s decision. It was stressed that before her death, Hadid chose the three executors to oversee her estate based on the closeness of her relationship to each. A lawyer representing the three issued the following statement:
The attempt to remove these three executors is totally unjustified and misconceived. Unlike Mr Schumacher (who is seeking to gain financially from the estate), the three executors have no personal financial interest. They have at all times acted properly and in good faith with the desire to do their best for the estate given their friendship with Zaha Hadid.
Rana Hadid was more pointed in her rebuttal, adding: “My aunt, Zaha, would have been devastated to learn what Schumacher is doing and we feel obliged to resist his claims in order to defend her great name and legacy.” A spokesperson for Zaha Hadid Architects told the Architect’s Journal that “this is a matter relating solely to the executors of Zaha Hadid’s estate.” This isn’t the first time Schumacher and the executors have butted heads, as the three took the ZHA partner to task after a speech at the World Architecture Forum in Berlin in 2016. In that speech, Schumacher called for the abolition of all social and affordable housing and getting rid of government land use policies. The executors and the rest of ZHA weren’t amused with Schumacher professing his libertarian views on a world stage while representing the firm, and they spoke out afterwards, saying his views were completely at odds with Hadid’s legacy. AN will update this story as more information becomes available.
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Zaha Hadid Architects and ETH Zurich team up to build a knitted formwork concrete pavilion

Located in Mexico City’s Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo, KnitCandela is a 13-foot-tall curved concrete shell formed with a 3-D-knitted framework. The sculptural project is a collaboration between Zaha Hadid Architects' Computation and Design Group (ZHCODE), ETH Zurich’s Block Research Group (BRG) led by Philippe Block and Tom Van Mele with PhD student Mariana Popescu, and Mexico’s Architecture Extrapolated who managed the on-site execution of the project. Named in homage to the concrete-bending designs of architect and structural engineer Félix Candela, the pavilion rests on three parabolic arches, with interior threadwork fashioned to resemble traditional garb found in the federal state of Jalisco, 340 miles northwest of the country’s capital. The pavilion is an outdoor feature of the museum's new exhibition, Design as Second Nature, featuring four decades of Zaha Hadid Architects' (ZHA) research into construction technology and design innovation. The project builds upon ETH Zurich's numerous recent forays into lightweight concrete structures based on curved geometries and digitally designed formwork. Currently, the university is leading KnitCrete, a partnership with the Swiss National Centre for Competence in Research in Digital Fabrication, to boost the technological expertise and production of hybrid and ultra-lightweight concrete structures. Past projects include an experimental concrete roof cast on 3-D printed sand formwork and an ultralight roof cap composed of a polymer textile and a network of steel cables. According to ETH Zurich, Block and Van Mele’s research group plugged a digitally generated pattern into an industrial knitting machine to produce the formwork. Over the course of 36 hours, the flat-bedded mechanism knitted over 200 miles of polyester yarn into four 3-D double-layered strips. To suspend the canopy, the upper layer of the textile bears a series of sleeves for the insertion of supporting cables. Additionally, the woven formwork integrated 1,000 inflatable modeling balloons that were transformed into waffle shell-like voids following the initial coating of concrete. The entire woven assembly, weighing a meager 55 pounds, was transported to the location via two suitcases stowed as normal checked baggage. Once onsite, the double-layered textile was tensioned between a steel-and-wood boundary frame and subjected to an initial millimeters-thick concrete coating. After hardening and the creation of a lightweight mold, the team poured five tons of fiber-reinforced concrete over the original 120-pound polyester-and-cable framework. The pavilion will remain in place until March 3, 2019.
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Zaha Hadid’s studio designs carpet collection inspired by her buildings

The RE/Form carpet collection was unveiled by Zaha Hadid Design and Royal Thai last week at London Design Festival 2018. The collection, whose name is short for reconfiguration and transformation, consists of 22 hand-tufted carpets that reimagine Zaha Hadid’s most iconic buildings as textiles. Each carpet draws upon a theme common to the late architect’s work—striated lines, ribbon-like projections, pixelated landscapes, and organic cellular shapes—to produce an abstract geometric print. The prints are complemented by a bold palette of turquoises, reds, yellows, and greens, which were developed specifically for the collection. “RE/Form is a celebration of Hadid’s legacy,” her studio said in a statement. “Patterns within each grouping capture [her] signature use of interweaving, layering and play with light and shadow.” Taken together, the carpets read like a monograph of Hadid’s Pritzker Prize–winning career. The striated patterns recall her earlier commissions, bringing to mind the sweeping cantilevers of the MAXXI in Rome and the library at the Vienna University of Economics. The ribbon series represents her shift toward more graceful curves, which culminated in the Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan. The cellular and pixelated carpets evoke her later experiments with angles, such as the tessellated facade of Antwerp Port House and the posthumously completed KAPSARC building in Saudi Arabia. The collection is the most recent in a series of high-profile collaborations between the architect’s industrial design studio and boutique product manufacturers. RE/Form was presented in an exhibit alongside Nagami’s new collection of sculptural, Hadid-designed, 3-D-printed furniture.
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Zaha Hadid Architects exhibit presents promise and peril of parametric design

  To the late Zaha Hadid, “math was like sketching.” Since her death, this attitude to architecture and design has been continued by her firm, ZHA, chiefly through ZHCODE, a computation and design research offshoot set up in 2007, the work of which is currently on display at The Building Centre in London. Borrowing theorist Mario Carpo’s terminology, the exhibition at The Building Centre is titled Digital Turn and showcases ZHCODE’s methods and ideas while exploring how digital tools have changed our ways of making and thinking. This is the second of two in a series of exhibitions. Earlier in the year, Digital Turn had showcased the academic work of The Bartlett’s Design Computation LabDigital Turn is divided into two parts: tectonism and semiotics. The former looks at the structure and geometry of digital fabrication, while the latter examines the physical results of this and its relationship to various contexts. This setup essentially translates into parametric design versus algorithm and data-driven urbanism. Visitors to the gallery are welcomed by full-scale white EPS foam offcuts, called "foam grottos." The undulating formwork, made from robotic hot wire cutting, is indicative of ZHA’s sinuous style and serves as a threshold to the exhibition space while being a cue for what is to come. "ZHCODE have been a perfect fit for the show; they are a research team within a professional practice so the narrative worked well, offering a mix of live projects and theoretical ideas," a spokesperson for The Building Center told The Architect's Newspaper. "Inspiring exhibits such as Thallus and the Mathematics Gallery at the Science Museum initially caught our attention, and in conversation with ZHCODE we realized we could display a range of ideas not yet exhibited." Part of the exhibition is dedicated to the recently completed Winton Gallery at London’s Science Museum. Building on the work of Frei Otto, ZHA’s studies into the “minimal surfaces” of 3-D objects informed the design, with a triangle-based pyramid being “reduced” (read: imploded) to a curvaceous hanging module which served as a circulation device, as shown in image at the top of the page. Wile nonetheless interesting and insightful, some physical design aspects of Digital Turn feel as if they belong in the past, in a similar vein to the most recent ZHA projects which still feel like a vision of the future from the 1990s. Robotic hot wire cutting has been around for more than two decades and though it has advanced, it’s hardly a groundbreaking fabrication method. One wonders if the visionary British-Iraqi architect were still alive, how the studio would have moved on. In response to this, The Building Center said that "parametricism isn’t the focus of the show…We also wanted to understand what was next from the practice that coined this term." Showcasing the Winton Gallery, however, also reveals how parametric design does more than just produce fancy curves. It also serves as an organizational tool. The aforementioned floating module was used in tandem with a circulation strategy derived from the airflow around a biplane. Naturally, this airflow diagram produced countless curves, but it also allowed ZHCODE to produce massing studies for objects in the gallery that align with it. This kind of design process has also been scaled by ZHA in urban studies that derive from an algorithmic input. In one example, a computer program located potential infill sites in London, identifying “end of block” plots of land, or sites that can be found at the edges of tower blocks. As a result, it proposed that housing be built on these underutilized areas. Another notable example is an exploration into modular housing. By using a uniform lattice structure, residents can customize their dual-aspect unit’s facades, adding balconies or changing the window type in the process. It’s basically Alejandro Aravena’s half houses scheme but for the wealthy. And it’s that latter notion which, when coupled with derisory remarks from the current head of ZHA, Patrik Schumacher, on social housing and desire to privatize cities, leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Furthermore, the often overtly abstract nature of parametric architecture, an architecture reserved for museums, corporate headquarters, luxury hotels, and extravagant condominiums, doesn't counter this sense of elitism either. A welcome palate cleanser can be found in another exhibition at The Building Center from Royal College graduate Hannah Rozenberg, who won this year's Student Prize for Innovation. Her book, Building Without Bias: An Architectural Language for the Post-Binary illustrates how artificial intelligence isn’t always right and is even sometimes racist, as demonstrated by Microsoft’s "Tay" bot which ended up making racist, misogynistic, and genocidal remarks on Twitter. If a Twitter bot can do that, who’s to say an urban planning bot wouldn’t start redlining?  Does Digital Turn subsequently highlight that, while parametric design may be an incredibly useful design tool for both making and thinking, its urbanistic potential is something to be wary of?  The Building Center responded to this. "ZHCODE’s algorithmic design work on display in Digital Turn showcases the most advanced algorithmic design taking place today," it said. "For example, the computational study series exploring housing liveability measures shows how advanced algorithmic methods of design generate a formal outcome that guarantees multiple desired conditions are synthesized in a single solution to a particular site. The digital design method therefore provides the designer/architect with sophisticated options to site-specific problems.

"Still far from an autonomous design bot, relinquished of the architect's control, the project showcases the potential of algorithmic design. Hannah’s work recognizes the importance of these methods, but highlights that we are at a juncture where we need a robust analytical response to ensure we design and build our future for everyone."

Digital Turn  On view through September 14 The Built Environment Trust's RCA Student Prize for Innovation On view through August 29 The Building Centre Store Street London, U.K.
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Zaha Hadid Architects releases flythrough of crystalline desert complex

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) recently revealed a new video of the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), offering new perspectives for those who can’t make it to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to see it in person. The sprawling complex spans 750,000-square-feet and is a nonprofit research institution focused on studying the relationship between energy policy and social well-being around the world. King Abdullah Petroleum Studies And Research Centre (KAPSARC) from Zaha Hadid Architects on Vimeo. Its design riffs off of structural and formal themes the architect developed over her career. Hadid was inspired by honeycombs found in nature and also designed it in response to the environment of the Riyadh landscape. The building features irregular hexagonal shells structured around open courtyards, with a skylight oculus over each courtyard to offer strategic lighting and shading. Other passive and active environmental solutions have led to a LEED Platinum certification from the United States Green Building Council. The video showcases the building’s unique structure and gives an impression of how it feels to walk under the honeycomb-like cells. A walk-through in the video reveals the crystalline forms and modularity of the structure, which holds an energy knowledge center, energy computer center, conference center with an exhibition hall and 300-seat auditorium, a research library, and the Musalla, a place for prayer. The building was completed in 2017 and was one of the final projects that Hadid oversaw before she passed away. It was also featured in AN’s recent Saudi Arabia’s feature.
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AN tracks the largest projects in Saudi Arabia

This story originally appeared in our June 2018 issue. Read the first part of our Saudi Arabia feature here. With so many large-scale projects going up and wholly new urban areas in development, it can be hard to keep track of the myriad established architecture offices working across Saudi Arabia. Here is a quick guide to some of the biggest, tallest, and most cutting-edge projects in the works across the country. King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture Snøhetta Opening 2018 Snøhetta’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is the by-product of a design competition led by the Saudi Aramco Oil Company, which wanted a new knowledge incubator for Saudi Arabia to symbolize the nation’s aspirations for a diversified economy. The one-million-square-foot complex will feature a 930-seat Grand Hall as well as a cinema, library, exhibition hall, museum, and archive, among other offerings. The desert-bound structure is designed to resemble a series of stacked pebbles clad in parallel bands of metal piping. Inside, these give way to graphic, linear patterns that reveal a delicate metal structure underneath. Meanwhile, the Grand Hall's ceiling is wrapped in perforated copper panels. Jeddah Tower (formerly Kingdom Tower)| Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture; Calthorpe Associates Opening 2020 When completed, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill’s 3,280-foot Jeddah Tower will stand as the tallest building on Earth. The organically shaped pinnacle will be the focal point of the Kingdom City development (population: 210,000), a forthcoming $20 billion economic area master planned by Berkeley, California–based Calthorpe Associates for Saudi Arabia’s west coast. The tapered skyscraper is structured to mimic desert vegetation and is built with petal-shaped apartment blocks at its base. It will also contain a hotel, commercial spaces, and a variety of observation platforms above. King Abdullah University of Science & Technology BuroHappold; HOK Completed 2009 In 2009, St. Louis, Missouri–based HOK designed and built an 8,900-acre campus for the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, in just over 30 months. The 940-student university contains some of the most advanced scientific lab equipment in the world and features 5.5 million square feet spread across 27 buildings, including two million square feet of laboratories. The labs are arrayed across four 500,000-square-foot structures designed to be “flexible building shells” with universal floor plates that can accommodate different lab setups. The structures are wrapped in horizontal metal louvers to control for glare while the campus library is faced with translucent stone cladding that casts light from within at night. Haramain High-Speed Railway Stations Foster + Partners; BuroHappold Opening 2018 Foster + Partners and BuroHappold are working on a series of transformative high-speed rail (HSR) stations across the country as the Saudi government pushes to boost regional connectivity with a new 280-mile-long HSR line with stops in Medina, Mecca, Jeddah, and the King Abdullah Financial District. Designs for the stations are meant to seed new urban areas in each locale by fusing cavernous, 85-foot-tall arched interior spaces with strategically-placed solid facades to limit solar gain, overhead bridges to create covered outdoor spaces around the stations, and direct connections to the country’s most bustling cities. The line is expected to open sometime this year and will carry 135 million passengers per year by 2042. King Abdullah Financial District Henning Larsen; SOM Opening 2020 Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen has master planned a new business district on the northern edge of Riyadh, where 59 high-rise towers are now in the works. The firm took inspiration from the city’s historic center when calibrating the positioning of each of those towers, generating a taut, tall cluster of angled and closely set monoliths. The arrangement is designed to minimize solar penetration into the city, resulting in ambient temperatures—the designers hope—up to ten degrees cooler than surrounding areas. The massive, nearly complete development area has been in the works for years and features contributions from SOM, CallisonRTKL, Gensler, Foster + Partners, and many others. King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center Zaha Hadid Architects Opening 2018 Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) recently completed the 750,000-square-foot KAPSARC (King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center) complex, a nonprofit research institution focused on “policies that contribute to the most effective use of energy to provide social well-being across the globe.” The honeycomb-shaped complex is designed to optimize solar and wind orientation and is made up of five buildings clustered around a series of interlocking courtyards topped by metal canopies. The complex, which opened earlier this year, was one of the final projects Hadid oversaw. Among other features, it includes a 300-seat auditorium, a library with 100,000 volumes in its archive, and an inspirational prayer area called a Musalla.
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Saudi Arabia is building a future for its millennial population

This story originally appeared in our June 2018 issue and will be followed by a list of the largest projects currently underway in Saudi Arabia. When work on the Kingdom Tower by architects Adrian Smith Gordon Gill (ASGG) is completed in 2020 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, its elevators will bring visitors up to the building’s highest residential floors 114 stories up in roughly 52 seconds, where views will stretch out over the Red Sea and beyond. The trip, dizzying as it might sound, is symbolic of the speed at which Saudi Arabia is embracing new globalized perspectives as it seeks to pivot away from oil and toward a diverse, sustainable economy via its Saudi Vision 2030 plan, an initiative that seeks to crystallize this transformation. United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently touted the efforts at an economic summit, saying, “We're standing with [the Saudis] as they're about to transform both their society and their economy. This new move I think could be even more dramatic and more far-reaching for the whole geopolitical sector than was the original hydrocarbon." He means it could be more transformative than oil. The nation has been undergoing change for some time now, as it embarks on the early stages of fulfilling the dream of its recently-deceased monarch—King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud passed away in 2015—who sought to re-open Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world after a period of relative isolation. Abdullah’s initial plans involved developing several economic development zones that function outside of domestic norms and laws. These new areas aim to make the Kingdom a node for global finance between the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, seek to spur innovation at home with investments in universities, and look to boost appeal among tourists and pilgrims to its many religious and cultural sites. The effort has continued under the new king—Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud—and the heir apparent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who are enacting further reforms under the mantle of their Saudi Vision 2030 program. Vision 2030 The many changes are due to necessity more than anything else—over 70 percent of the Saudi population is less than 30 years old—while job and housing prospects for this group are anemic under the existing models. To boot, over 200,000 Saudis are currently earning professional and academic degrees abroad and will eventually join ascendant Saudi millennials in demanding steady, well-paying jobs (and relaxed social mores) that the oil economy simply will not be able to provide. The National Transformation Program, part of Vision 2030, calls for creating more than 450,000 new jobs for Saudis by 2020, increasing the private sector’s contribution to the national GDP, and boosting housing production and incentivizing housing affordability across the country. New cities and neighborhoods will be developed to meet this need, with Saudi authorities expecting to spend more than $78 billion on Vision 2030 initiatives between 2016 and 2020 alone. The new cities, infrastructure, and urban monuments that result will embody the manifold economic reforms the state wishes to embrace as it moves forward. Vision 2030 seeks to add no fewer than five new megacities and many smaller developments to the country over the next decade or so. These large and multifaceted developments, generally speaking, will be designed to have regionally specific industrial focuses like global finance, agribusiness, and religious tourism, and will be connected via new transportation investments like high-speed rail on the west coast and an upgraded central airport in the capital city of Riyadh and the country’s second largest city, Jeddah. The result, should it come to pass, will be one of massive change embodied by glimmering, faceted towers, cul-de-sac-bound streets, and tightly packed townhouses. As new reforms take off, and earlier experiments come online, questions on the nature of the coming changes abound. Is the sacrifice of historic and natural sites in the name of progress worthwhile? Will the reforms stave off social unrest in the future? New Cities A recently announced plan calls for the creation of a new multinational economic area called NEOM, a 10,230-square-mile purpose-built city (nearly 34 times larger in area than New York City) planned on the edge of the Red Sea. The megacity, focused on energy, water, biotechnology, and food production, is expected to cost $500 billion and will be jointly developed with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, all of which share borders or Red Sea access with the development. Although an official master plan for the region has not been unveiled, a design document prepared for the area calls for “opulent buildings with modern and traditional Moroccan-style architecture." Like other forthcoming economic zones, NEOM will be designed with judicial and governing bodies that exist outside traditional Saudi governmental structures, a bid to leapfrog over incremental reforms and develop globalization-friendly areas that are attractive to young Saudis, international investors, and tourists. At least four other economic zones were planned prior to MBS’s tenure, including the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), a 17.2-million-square-foot development master planned by Danish architects Henning Larsen on the northern edge of Riyadh. After lengthy delays, the leaf-shaped business district will be complete later this year. According to Henning Larsen, the district is planned in tightly grouped clusters of high-rise office and residential towers that are organized to mitigate solar heat gain. The faceted towers connect via networks of elevated skyways and will frame lively pedestrian zones along lower levels inspired by the region’s seasonal wadi riparian landscapes. Here, pedestrians will find shelter from the crippling heat while infrastructural elements capture and recycle runoff and rainwater. Overhead trams will provide further shade while the buildings’ varied geometries deflect direct sunlight. The firm studied the site’s solar and wind patterns intensely in order to generate a development envelope and site plan for KAFD that work together to bring down ambient temperatures by as much as ten degrees. KAFD will be connected to the rest of the city by a new metro system—one of many ground-up transit systems being built across the country—that will include six transit lines with 85 stations and 110 miles of track. The system is being developed by Bechtel, Siemens, Alstom, and Samsung, while station design is being undertaken by international architecture offices, including Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and Snøhetta. At the center of the citadel will be HOK’s Central Market Authority Tower. Developed with Saudi architects Omrania, the 76-story office building will feature triangulated exterior walls wrapped in an outward layer of horizontal fins and perforated metal panels. The highly articulated building will be joined by 58 other skyscrapers designed by various international firms, including SOM, CallisonRTKL, Gensler, Foster + Partners, and others. Describing the project, Roger Soto, senior vice president at HOK, said, “We carefully designed the building to be a part of [its] place.” Another new economic zone is the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) outside of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast. The 65-square-mile development is master planned by a consortium led by SOM and BuroHappold and is billed as “a new world city for Saudi Arabia” that will take the country “far beyond the oil-based economy,” according to Fahd Al-Rasheed, managing director and CEO of KAEC. The new megacity will ultimately house two million residents and is located near the major cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah. Carved into successive coastal, industrial, port, and business zones, the district will include the aforementioned Jeddah Tower by ASGG, which is currently under construction in the city’s “financial island,” a central business district. The nearby King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, also by HOK, opened in 2009 as the kingdom’s first co-ed university. The two nodes will sit at the nexus of the Haramain HSR line connecting Medina in the north with KAEC, Jeddah, and Mecca to the south. The rail line will feature stations designed by Foster + Partners and BuroHappold that are meant to act as large-scale welcome portals to each city. Each station is unique to its locale, but all present cavernous, 85-foot-tall arched interior volumes with intricate structural detailing. The stations, designed to strategically avoid direct solar glare and filled with wide-ranging functions, will also create accessible pedestrian zones at each stop, allowing travelers to seamlessly arrive into town car-free. When the 280-mile-long HSR line opens sometime this year, it will effectively create a contiguous urban spine along Saudi Arabia’s west coast with economic, educational, civic, and religious nodes. Two other economic cities are in the works, including the Knowledge Economic City (KEC) outside of Medina that will focus on intellectual property, knowledge-based industries, and medical, hospitality, tourism, and multimedia endeavors. The development is planned by AECOM as a residential hub and will offer housing for 150,000 Saudis across four distinct neighborhoods populated by apartment blocks, townhouses, and detached homes. The city will aim to provide roughly 20,000 jobs and is planned to contain large shopping and commercial areas. KEC is currently under development and is expected to be finished in 2025—five years later than originally anticipated. Smaller satellite cities across the country, anchored by cultural, academic, or economic institutions—like ZHA's King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) in Riyadh—are also in development. The energy- and technology-focused think tank headquarters and cultural center is envisaged as a cluster of courtyard pods. The building is joined nearby by the KAPSARC Community, a new 200-home sustainable neighborhood by HOK. The 500-acre development features umbrella-shaded community spaces, a spiritual district, and neat rows of geometric, off-white villas. HOK is also at work on a similar arts-focused community located beside Snøhetta’s King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (KACWC) in Dhahran. Snøhetta’s pebble-shaped cultural center contains an auditorium, a cinema, a library, and a museum, among other services, all spread out across a stack of bulbous, metal-tube-wrapped volumes. In creating a complementary residential component to KACWC, design principal Roger Schwabacher and his team at HOK aimed to “create a place to celebrate traditional Saudi craft that also doubles as a next-generation incubator space” for Saudi creatives, Schwabacher said. Too Much Too Fast? In the city of Mecca, however, development is moving too quickly for some. Mecca is the Holiest City in Islam and hosts over 2.4 million pilgrims during the 2017 Hajj and Umrah annual pilgrimages. Efforts are underway to expand that number to north of 17 million pilgrims in coming decades, a prospect that has resulted in many renovations and large new public and private works. Recent hotel expansions, in particular, have led to the loss of much of the historic fabric surrounding the Great Mosque at the center of the city. In 2013, for example, the house of Muhammad's first wife, Khadījah bint Khuwaylid, was torn down and replaced with a new public bathroom facility intended to handle the increased visitors. The loss, one of several high-profile demolitions in recent years, angered many and brought into question the lengths Saudi officials are taking to solidify tourism as an economic force in the country. Other high-profile improvements include the addition of wheelchair-accessible viewing ramps to the Great Mosque, as well as a forthcoming expansion of the Great Mosque’s worship spaces that will double capacity to 1.2 million worshipers. All of these changes can now be seen from the city’s tallest spire, the Abraj Al Bait tower, by German architecture firm SL Rasch GmbH. The 1,972-foot-tall Big Ben–like structure is rooted in a cluster of midrise hotel and shopping mall towers and was completed in 2011, ushering in a wave of high-rise development directly beside the Great Mosque. The massive clock-tower-topped complex is now joined by the multiphase Jabal al Kaaba hotel, an even more tightly packed cluster of mixed-use towers containing a total of 8,500 hotel rooms. The projects will soon be joined by additional developments by Foster + Partners, HOK, and other international offices. The Foster + Partners project, for example, will bring a crystalline bundle of hotel and apartment towers conceived under a philosophy of “luxury with humility,” marketing speak meant to attract wealthy pilgrims to the new high-end residences. Once completed in a few years, the project will function as a gateway to the new multimodal King Abdul Aziz Road, a 2.27-mile-long spine of development connecting central Mecca with the country’s transportation network. The road will contain a 200-foot-wide promenade and will be surrounded by 100,000 residential units and 28,000 hotel rooms. Regardless of the reception, however, one thing is clear: In Saudi Arabia, the future is almost here, and it looks very, very big.
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An over-the-top hat party brings art and architecture to the High Line

The first-ever “Hat Party on the High Line” event drew a rowdy crowd of art, culture, fashion, and architecture aficionados to the elevated park last night courtesy of the Friends of the High Line, with proceeds going to support the park’s continued operation and atmosphere of inclusivity. The night was sponsored by a huge host committee made up of some of architecture’s biggest names (including Diller Scofidio + Renfro, BIG, James Corner Field Operations, Zaha Hadid Architects, Rafael Viñoly Architects, and more) and hosted by Diane von Furstenberg. Perhaps the biggest draw was the 9:00 PM hat contest, where guests strutted their stuff on a runway in front of judges Alan Cumming, Aki Sasamoto, Florent Morellet, Charles Renfro, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, and Vi Vacious and Acid Betty from RuPaul's Drag Race. Partygoers rose to the challenge and presented their wildest hats, most of them inspired by the plant life and views of the High Line, to raucous applause. While BIG debuted a twisting-tower hat reminiscent of their High Line-topping XI, Zaha Hadid Architects 3D printed a swooping blue and white hat reminiscent of the curves found at 520 West 28th, and other studios including SOM and DS+R all competed to take home the crown. Ultimately the night was won by Vinayak Portonovo of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU), seen modeling the studio’s contribution; a glitzy take on PAU’s plan for the new Penn Station.