Perceptions of space and orientation have changed significantly since the building of the ancient city of Sana’a, demonstrated not least by the works of Zaha Hadid. The Iraqi-born architect had pushed the boundaries of spatial formation in architecture by designing projects that were considered unbuildable when she set out on her career over thirty years ago.
Hadid originally studied mathematics at the American University in Beirut before studying architecture at the Architectural Association in London. Although still based in London her work is truly global, with projects across Europe, Asia and America. However, it was only last year that she was finally commissioned to build something in her home country. The commission is to design the new headquarters for the Iraqi Central Bank in Baghdad. The current headquarters were designed by a Danish architect firm, Dissling + Weitling.
Whilst Hadid’s Iraqi upbringing has more resonance with Iraqi culture, her design style cannot be called ‘Iraqi’. By Hadid’s involvement with the Iraqi Central Bank, she contributes to Iraq’s rebuilding in more ways than one. Not only is the country rebuilding itself after years of destruction, it is also crafting a new image of itself on its own terms.
‘A southern room is worth a room; a western or eastern room is worth half a room, and a northern room is worth no room’. Sana’ai Proverb.
By Elspeth Black