Archives for : November2012

Zaha Hadid wins Japan National Stadium contract


Zaha Hadid has won an international competition to build the new National Stadium of Japan, adding to the practice’s pretty impressive portfolio, which includes the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games and the Bridge Pavilion in Zaragoza, Spain. She was selected ahead of 45 other internationally renowned architecture firms for what is a $1.62 billion development.

During the announcement in Tokyo, celebrated Japanese architect Tadao Ando, who chaired the judging panel, said: “The entry’s dynamic and futuristic design embodies the messages Japan would like to convey to the rest of the world.” He also complimented the fluidity and innovation of Hadid’s design and how it complements Tokyo’s landscape.

The competition rules specified the stadium must be able to seat 80,000 people; have a retractable roof, be environmentally efficient and complement the surrounding landscape. It must also be up and ready by 2018 to host the Rugby World Cup the following year.

I interviewed Ms, Hadid a couple of years ago and have included most of it below for your enjoyment. She really is a unique and fascinating woman.

Zaha Hadid is one of the world’s most celebrated architects. The Baghdad-born Briton has won numerous international competitions and in 2004 became the first woman to receive the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Her works range from a fire station in Germany to a ski jump in Austria, and she was commissioned to design the Aquatics Center for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Yet, more frequently than not she is remembered for the sheer quirkiness of her creations, many of which never actually came to fruition. Her unique ideas and determination to achieve them in a male-dominated profession led her former teacher and business partner Rem Koolhaas to once describe her as being “a planet in her own orbit.” The architect talks to Rob Gilhooly.

Were your family and upbringing in any way influencial on your desire to become an architect?

British architect Zaha Hadid at the Praemium Imperiale, a global arts prize, in Tokyo in 2009. Photographer: Robert Gilhooly

I was born in Baghdad and had a very enjoyable childhood in a liberal setting. We lived in a large house and my father was a forward-looking man with cosmopolitan interests. In those days, Baghdad was influenced by Modernism and it was a very progressive city. Both Frank Lloyd Wright and Gio Ponti had designed buildings there. At home, mixed in with the more traditional artifacts, the furniture in my room was angular and Modernist, too. I remember as a child really wondering why these things looked so different, why this sofa was different from any regular one. There was an asymmetric mirror as well, which really was the start of my love of asymmetry.

People of my father’s generation were sent to study abroad. My father, who was a political figure, went to the London School of Economics, so there was incredible social reform everywhere. I went to a catholic girl’s school and the teachers who taught sciences were all from Baghdad University, so the standard of the science lessons was really incredible. The headmistress, who was a nun, was very interested in the education of women, so in a way she was a pioneer in that part of the world.  We were girls from many different religions – Muslim, Christian, Jewish – we had no ideas what our religions were!

I knew I wanted to be an architect from about 11 or 12, but I took math at university because I would have been the only woman in the engineering department of which architectural study was a part.

You majored in mathematics at university. How did you become an architect?

I became interested in geometry while studying mathematics. I realized there was a connection with the logic of maths to architecture and abstraction. Geometry and mathematics have a tremendous connection to architecture – even more so now with the advanced computer scripts used in many of our designs.

2. So computerization has had a big impact on your work?

Actually right from the 1970s we did drawings that were in a sense more complex than those done on a computer. What I think is interesting about computing is of course that it deals with complexity in a much more interesting way and efficient way. It advances the material tremendously. And it’s not necessarily only about saving time. There is much more precision and in the realization of projects it makes a big difference. It enables you much more to manipulate the project from every aspect so in that sense one can achieve much more variety and complexity than one could before.

3. Your work seems to be almost cinematographic. Has cinema influenced you?

I’ve always been interested in how movement affects architecture. As in the frames of a film: not seeing the world from one particular angle, but having a more complex view. We view the world from so many perspectives – never from one single viewpoint – and now even from the air and satellites – our perception is never fixed. So the concepts of fragmentation and abstraction have been central to my work of de-constructing the ideas of repetitiveness and mass production – moving away from all the ideas we inherited from the industrial societies of the 19th century.

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Fukushima Restaurant in Tokyo


A slideshow of photos taken at 47 Dining, a restaurant in Tokyo specializing in produce/cuisine from Fukushima. The photos were taken during an assignment for the Guardian newspaper and correspondent Justin McCurry’s excellent story about the place appeared in the newspaper on Nov. 17.

The online version can be found here

Of course it was mandatory to sample some of the fare on offer, which was excellent, especially the “ji-zake” including from the excellent but little-known Aizu Sake Brewery in Tajima

More photos can be found on my Photoshelter website here

It’s interesting that while people in Tokyo are slowly warming to the idea of purchasing and consuming produce from Fukushima, friends of mine in Fukushima and in most of the Tohoku region affected by last year’s disasters remain skeptical of foodstuffs that originate there.

That being said, my local supermarket often sticks produce from Fukushima but if the same item is available from another part of the country there is little doubt as to which is more popular with customers. One Fukushima grape grower I interviewed for a story said that despite there being no evidence of contamination in his part of central Fukushima he has his produce scanned both by the government and through an independent company in Saitama, which neighbors Tokyo to the north. The scans reveal nothing of concern, but his sales are down 30% compared with before the disasters. Other farmers have resorted to other means to try and regain consumer confidence, but admit it is going to be a long time before their produce is fully accepted on a wider level. If ever.

Strong in the Rain

The cover of David McNeil and Lucy Birmingham's "Strong in the Rain"


One of my photos was used on the cover of a book (and several more inside) about the 2011 Tohoku disasters, authored by the Independent’s David McNeil and Lucy Birmingham of Time magazine. As part of a wider article, Ian Buruma takes a look at the book for the New York Review of Books here and an excerpt can be found here

The title of the book comes from a celebrated poem by early 20th century writer Kenji Miyazawa, who was, coincidentally, born in one of the affected cities In Iwate Prefecture.

The authors kindly sent me a copy of the book and I am looking forward to getting stuck into that very soon. Fingers crossed for both of them that it does well – David and Lucy are remarkable journalists so I’m sure it will.

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