Feature

Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is the first museum to show the Pritzker Prize winning architect's furniture and other product designs.

Philadelphia Museum of ArtThrough Mar. 25

Add Zaha Hadid’s name to the growing list of “starchitects turned designers” whom the Philadelphia Museum of Art has showcased, said Janelle Zara in ArtInfo.com. Following the success of shows by Frank Gehry and Richard Meier, the museum has turned to the Iraq-born Hadid, the first female winner of architecture’s prestigious Pritzker Prize, to create this exhibit—the first in the U.S. to showcase Hadid’s expanding repertoire of product designs. The objects on view, including furniture, flatware, and a concept car, share the “curvilinear language” of many of Hadid’s buildings, as does the gallery space, which features sculpted, undulating walls designed by Hadid’s team and fashioned out of white polystyrene.

Hadid’s aesthetic is a fascinating combination of the natural and the technical, said Edward J. Sozanski in The Philadelphia Inquirer. While the materials she favors are man-made—stainless steel and cold-pressed plastics—the shapes they take are biomorphic, if not geological. The exhibit’s stratified walls look like cross sections of geologic deposits, and their undulating surfaces turn the space into a thrillingly futuristic cavern. Unfortunately, Hadid seems to give little thought to practicality. “Any visitor possessed of the slightest bit of mechanical curiosity will be frustrated,” for instance, that the insides of the pod-shaped Z Car, if there are any insides, are utterly off view. With the Z Chair, “form no longer follows function, it just hangs on and hopes for the best.” Similar criticism could be aimed at Hadid’s award-winning buildings, said Blake Gopnik in Newsweek. Her swooping forms don’t look forward; they look back to certain early modernist sculpture. Hadid’s works are “futuristic,” sure. But “the future they point to has been on show for almost a century.”

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