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A soft romantic side of Azeri culture, Heydar Aliyev Center

A soft romantic side of Azeri culture, Heydar Aliyev Center

This romantic side of Azeri was an architect by Zaha Hadid from Iraqi-British, as an incredible achievement. This center was a dream of Hadid, the building also won the top prize and awarded as the design of the year in London. The construction of this structure was started in 2007 and was completed on 10th may 2012. Estimated it cost around $250 million USD. It covers the area around 57,500 m2 (619,000 sq ft) in Baku Azerbaijan.

It includes the  Center houses a conference hall (auditorium), a gallery hall and a museum. The project is intended to play an integral role in the intellectual life of the city. Located close to the city center, the site plays a pivotal role in the redevelopment of Baku.

The Center establishes a continuous, fluid relationship between its surrounding plaza and the building’s interior. The plaza, as the ground surface; accessible to all as part of Baku’s urban fabric, rises to envelop an equally public interior space and define a sequence of event spaces dedicated to the collective celebration of contemporary and traditional Azeri culture. Elaborate formations such as undulations, bifurcations, folds, and inflections modify this plaza surface into an architectural landscape that performs a multitude of functions: welcoming, embracing, and directing visitors through different levels of the interior. With this gesture, the building blurs the conventional differentiation between the architectural object and urban landscape, building envelope and urban plaza, figure and ground, interior and exterior.

Fluidity in architecture is not new to this region. In historical Islamic architecture, rows, grids, or sequences of columns flow to infinity like trees in a forest, establishing non-hierarchical space. Continuous calligraphic and ornamental patterns flow from carpets to walls, walls to ceilings, ceilings to domes, establishing seamless relationships and blurring distinctions between architectural elements and the ground they inhabit. Our intention was to relate to that historical understanding of architecture, not through the use of mimicry or a limiting adherence to the iconography of the past, but rather by developing a firmly contemporary interpretation, reflecting a more nuanced understanding. Responding to the topographic sheer drop that formerly split the site in two, the project introduces a precisely terraced landscape that establishes alternative connections and routes between public plaza, building, and underground parking. This solution avoids additional excavation and landfill, and successfully converts an initial disadvantage of the site into a key design feature.

One of the most critical yet challenging elements of the project was the architectural development of the building’s skin. Our ambition to achieve a surface so continuous that it appears homogenous required a broad range of different functions, construction logic, and technical systems had to be brought together and integrated into the building’s envelope. Advanced computing allowed for the continuous control and communication of these complexities among the numerous project participants.

The Heydar Aliyev Center principally consists of two collaborating systems: a concrete structure combined with a space frame system. In order to achieve large-scale column-free spaces that allow the visitor to experience the fluidity of the interior, vertical structural elements are absorbed by the envelope and curtain wall system. The particular surface geometry fosters unconventional structural solutions, such as the introduction of curved ‘boot columns’ to achieve the inverse peel off the surface from the ground to the West of the building, and the ‘dovetail’ tapering of the cantilever beams that support the building envelope to the East of the site.

In this architectural composition, if the surface is the music, then the seams between the panels are the rhythm. Numerous studies were carried out on the surface geometry to rationalize the panels while maintaining continuity throughout the building and landscape. The seams promote a greater understanding of the project’s scale. They emphasize the continual transformation and implied motion of its fluid geometry, offering a pragmatic solution to practical construction issues such as manufacturing, handling, transportation and assembly; and answering technical concerns such as accommodating movement due to deflection, external loads, temperature change, seismic activity and wind loading.

 

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About Shriya Trivedi

Sharon Davis Founder and principal of Sharon Davis Design, she is an award-winning practitioner whose work is driven by her belief in the transformative power of design. She believes that the success of the designs are measured by the degree to which they expand access to the fundamental human right to social justice, economic empowerment and a healthy sustainable environment. Her vision of architecture is buildings that can alter the future of communities.

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