So far 2016 has been a year of colossal losses and it’s only the end of March – David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Harper Lee and now today marks a sad day for the world of architecture and creativity as we bid farewell to the incomparable Zaha Hadid.
Hadid was an experimental vanguard, a mastermind at the forefront of contemporary world architecture in the late 20th century. From the glistening Guangzhou Opera House to the cloud-like Hungerburgbahn Funicular in Innsbruck, Austria, Hadid was famous for powerful, curving forms and elongated structures that avoid right angles.
While in South Tyrol last winter we had the pleasure of visiting one of Hadid’s final projects, Messner Mountaineering Museum Corones (MMM), a museum honouring the lifestyle of mountaineering. The museum’s central topic was ‘the rock’ and was designed by Hadid and her team, alongside mountaineer, adventurer and explorer Reinhold Messner, world-renowned for making the first ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.
Since 2003 Messner has been developing mountaineering museums, uniting the stories of the growth, culture, discipline and history of mountain climbing.
The MMM Corones is the sixth and final museum in Messner’s collection. Perched atop the Kronplatz, the museums design and exhibition hark back to the rawness of mountaineering, giving visitors an opportunity to see the struggles, as well as the accomplishments, behind Alpinism’s supreme discipline. Kronplatz is embedded between the peaks of the Zillertal Alps, Ortler Alps and the Dolomites, a breathtaking World Heritage Site, at the heart of a region enriched by three cultures. South Tyrol is a melting pot, augmented by the region’s collective cultures, Ladin, Italian and German. Standing in the MMM, gazing out of the misshapen, Hadid-style windows, one is saluted by these three cultures, embodied in the unrivalled beauty of the titanic peaks surrounding the building.
Reinhold Messner gave us a personal tour of the exhibition, telling tales of his wild expeditions while guiding us around Hadid’s masterpiece. To see this small museum on the side on a mountain at 2, 275m is somewhat bewildering; how did they do it? The complexity of the project was the source of many sleepless nights and taxed minds, not to mention the logistical hardships of construction. Don’t let the altitude put you off though, as the entire experience is breath-taking; you may even feel inspired to start mountaineering.
Hadid’s idiosyncratic architectural style is unmistakable in MMM; with concrete as the governing construction material, geometric obstacles challenging the realm of known possibilities, mezzanine-style flooring levels creating the climbing illusion, and large, floor-to-ceiling windows allowing the nearby mountain views to set the backdrop for the museum. It was obvious that Hadid’s eye went beyond the salient, beyond the physical space and into the intangible subjectivity of the minds of others whose eyes would also shape her work. The eyes that will continue to do so on all of her triumphs in her absence.
Saying it a little more eloquently than us, Sir Peter Cook wrote the following citation regarding Hadid’s unique work, upon her recent award of the RIBA’s 2016 Royal Gold Medal, for which she was the first woman to be awarded the prestigious honour in her own right;
“In our current culture of ticking every box, surely Zaha Hadid succeeds, since (to quote the Royal Gold Medal criteria) she is someone “who has made a significant contribution to the theory or practice of architecture…. for a substantial body of work rather than for work which is currently fashionable.” Indeed her work, though full of form, style and unstoppable mannerism, possesses a quality that some of us might refer to as an impeccable ‘eye’: which we would claim is a fundamental in the consideration of special architecture and is rarely satisfied by mere ‘fashion’.”
Reach MMM Corones directly via the cable car or, if you’re an adventurer, by foot as part of a mountain hike. The fundamental castigations of mountain climbing are the central leitmotifs of the MMM Corones, as exemplified by a rare collection of photographs and Art exhibited alongside an array of items collected by Reinhold Messner during his lifetime as an explorer.
Zaha Hadid died in Miami of a heart attack on Thursday, 31 March, 2016, aged 65.