Sunday, 16 August 2009

Zaha Hadid's J S Bach Chamber Music Hall

As part of the Manchester International Festival Zaha Hadid was commissioned to design a music hall with the intention of performing various pieces of the fantastic composer Johann Sebastian Bach’s work. Alex Poots, the director of the festival, invited Hadid to design a space that’s design would evolve from Bach’s music, however Hadid has somewhat deviated from the provided brief and created a concert hall that’s design is not directly affiliated with the composer’s music.

The concert hall transforms an empty box exhibition space into an elaborate kinetic form that natural floats around the room. The form, single line, wraps itself around the audience space, contracting and expanding through the journey it takes through the room. The stage marks the midpoint of the line, here the simple form appears the most sporadic, encapsulating an o perfectly verlap between the single line and itself. Perhaps expressing the complexity of a single line of music. The hall performs beautifully as a stationary structure but also works hand in hand with the music of Bach. The structure is encased in a sharp white fabric, similar to her Burnham Pavilion in Chicago, has a fairly dense aesthetic that disguises the internal elements and adds to the illusion of floating. Hadid’s design isn’t a direct representation of Bach’s music, instead it is a parallel extrusion of the music.

Hadid’s concept of disassociating the design from Bach is similar to Peter Eiseman’s Holocaust memorial in Berlin, the architect insisted his design bare no symbolic message, instead the form would simply evoke an individual response from every visitor. A similar experience you receive upon entering the hall, and to be frank it works. One immediately feels drawn to the space only to discover the music of Bach cascading around the form, proving the the two separate entities work together as one.

Although a temporary installation, this music hall may bare significance in the future of architecture in not just Manchester but the whole of the UK. Hadid has built all over the world, except it wasn’t until 2006 when her first building was built within Britain, bearing in mind she started her London based practice in 1980. So why has it taken so long for Hadid to be recognized within her home country, and why is it that there is now a sudden surge of her work appearing across the UK? Perhaps at last we, as a country, are slowly shedding the traditional architectural skin, and now have begun to embrace a modern age of architecture.

Hadid currently has 2 builds under construction in the UK, first the Museum of Transport in Glasgow, and secondly the most significant, the Aquatics Centre for the London 2012 Olympics. However recent news appeared that she was on a list of Architects asked to submit designs for an extension to Manchester’s own Whitworth Art Gallery, if it is her design chosen Manchester may evolve into an epicenter for deconstructivist architecture, with the likes of Libeskind in Salford. Who knows which architect is next, but which ever way you look at it Hadid’s appearance at this years Manchester International Festival may be the start of something spectacular in Manchester.

By Jack Penford Baker

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