Zaha Hadid Architects at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2012

Arum Installation inspired by Frei Otto’s method

by Valentina Ieva
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The Arum Shell - Zaha Hadid Architects 

Venice Architecture Biennale 2012 Room 1.9, Corderie dell' Arsenale 29th August - 25th November 2012

This year’s Biennale theme ‘Common Ground’ shows how the work of the major protagonists of contemporary architecture - often regarded as independent individual creations - is in fact based on historical lineages of collective research. This is also true of the work of  Zaha Hadid Architects. It is well known that the early work was initially inspired by Russian Suprematism.

In our installation and exhibition at the Biennale we want to show that - apart from the dialogue with the work of contemporary competitors that existed all along - our recent work connects to a rather different historical strand of research. The more our design research and work evolved on the basis of algorithmic form generation, the more we learned to appreciate the work of pioneers like Frei Otto who had achieved the most elegant designs on the basis of material-structural form-finding processes. From Frei Otto we learned how the richness, organic coherence and fluidity of the forms and spaces we desire could emerge rationally from an intricate balance of forces. We expanded Frei Otto’s method to include environmental as well as structural logics, and we moved from material to computational simulations.

One particular area of research we would like to explore with our installation is the domain of light - weight shells in combination with tensile structures. We have already designed a number of complex shells as well as some tensile structures. Here, for the first time, we would like to integrate these two worlds. The Arum shell is an installation made from pleated metal. We will surround the installation with the documentation of our research, including key reference projects of the pre-eminent precursors in this line of research.

We will show the work Frei Otto, Felix Candela, Heinz Isler among others and include work by Philippe Block, a young, contemporary researcher of stone compression shells.


Design Zaha Hadid with Patrik Schumacher

Exhibition Design Woody Yao, Margarita Valova

Installation Design and Presentation Shajay Bhooshan, Saman Saffarian, Suryansh Chandra, Mostafa El Sayed

Structural Engineering Rasti Bartek, Buro Happold, UK

Material & Fabrication Technology Gregory Epps, RoboFOLD

Coordinator Manon Janssens

In collaboration with

Studio Hadid, Universität für angewandte Kunst, Vienna

The BLOCK Research Group, Institute of Technology in Architecture, ETH, Zurich

Faculty of Architecture, ETH, Zurich

Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios de Posgrado, Faculty of Architecture, UNAM, Mexico


Photo Credits: Sergio Pirrone - Iwan Baan




    • Valentina Ieva

      Valentina Ieva


      Bari / Italy

      Laureata in Ingegneria edile-architettura, giornalista per professione, web writer per diletto. Amante di architettura, design, fotografia e libri di carta. Dipendente dai social, Instagram e InstaStories su tutti. Affamata di vita, viaggi e storie da scoprire. Qualunque forma d'arte mi affascina da sempre e non posso pensare una vita senza: emozioni forti, immaginazione, buona musica, cucina pugliese, sole e gatti. Per dirla con le parole di Battiato, non potrei vivere senza: ‘un soffio al)

    The Arum Shell 54

    The Arum Shell

    Venice / Italy / 2012