Zaha Hadid “humbled” by Baku reception
The Iraqi-born British architect was in Azerbaijan this week for an official presentation of her new Heydar Aliyev cultural centre
By Sophia Kishkovsky. Web only
Published online: 07 November 2013
Zaha Hadid was in Baku on Tuesday for an official presentation of the Heydar Aliyev Center, which the Iraqi-born British architect designed. According to local media, Hadid said at the event: “It’s really very humbling for me to have this experience. And it is a great honor for me to work with so many great people.”
The undulating white waves of the new building are the most recent display of the architectural and cultural ambitions of the oil-rich former Soviet republic on the Caspian Sea. The cultural centre celebrates the late President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, a member of the Politburo who transitioned into being a post-Soviet national leader. He died in the US in 2003, at a clinic in Cleveland, Ohio and was succeeded by his son Ilham Aliyev, whose wife, Mehriban Aliyeva is known as a patron of cultural projects.
Construction of the complex, including a museum about Aliyev, galleries and a concert hall, began in 2007 and was completed last year. The space, which is 74.1 meters tall at its highest point and now dominates Heydar Aliyev Avenue, the main thoroughfare to the airport, opened to the public earlier this year. It has already hosted exhibitions of works by Andy Warhol and Tahir Salakhov, an Azerbaijani-born Soviet artist whose works include a large-scale portrait of Aliyev.
Anar Alakbarov, the director of the centre, said on Tuesday that an effort is being made to synthesise the old and the new in Baku. “During construction works… a particular attention is paid to the harmony between our national traditions of architecture and modernity,” he said.
In 2012, Human Rights Watch issued a report condemning the Azerbaijani government for confiscating the property of residents in the historic city center and razing their homes in pursuit of its redevelopment projects. Residents near the Heydar Aliyev Center were not subject to such evictions since the building is located on the city outskirts, amid non-descript modern housing blocks.
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