I never wanted to go to Baku, until Zaha Hadid created her statement building in Azerbaijan’s capital. The futuristic construction situated not in the very center. But it makes people travel out of the historical part, also beyond Soviet way of thinking.
Zaha Hadid’ building is a fantastic piece of architecture, built in 2012 after 5 years of construction. It is named after Heydar Aliyev, who ruled Azerbaijan during the Soviet era and became its first president in 1991. Today Heydar Aliyev Center hosts exhibitions, concerts and other cultural events. Surprisingly, it situated on Heydar Aliyev Boulevard. The locals say that when you look at the construction from the top you see the silhouette of the former President’s signature. Do you see it? I don’t.
On my way to Baku I read “Baku” – the magazine about luxury, run by Leyla Aliyeva. She is the first daughter of the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. She is also the grantdaughter of Heydar Aliyev. One article catched my attention, saying that Heydar Aliyev Center is the most favourite work of British-Iraqi architect. Who knows, but the building features Hadid’s signature curves. For this work Zaha has won the Design Museum Design of the Year Award.
I had only few minutes to enjoy it. Actually, only 10 minutes. One hour before the departure to the airport I took a taxi to see this masterpiece. It was a rush hour, so I spent more time on the road than expected. When I arrived, the air was melting (35C). So did I.
Someone calls the building “Marilyn’s blown skirt”. Others find it as a spaceship. For me the building reminds 57,000-square metre iceberg – white and massive. But unlike other construction, that froze in the space, Zaha Hadid’s construction moove the space due to curvy walls.
I guess the building was very shocking for locals who used for Soviet massive architecture. When your town has been demonstrated conservative way of thinking in architecture, it must be very controvercial to find out that architecture can be creative. Surrounded by impressive buildings, you must felt very small and uninfluential. I wonder what locals felt when they saw this construction, full of air and freedom.
But the building shocked not only locals. It got worldwide publicity due to several reasons. First of all, it costed Azerbaijan $250 mln. It is modest fortune for oil-rich country, but for this money you could improve health system in the whole state. Secondly, they destroyed 250 homes without given sufficient compensation for its residents. They even didn’t asked locals – they demolished buidings with people still inside. Finally, the international scandal occured when they found out about human traffick case. Migrants from Bosnia and Serbia had to construct the buiding with their passports confiscated. You may only guess the level of labour conditions they had been working.
Maybe this is one of the reasons why the building is badly done. Only 4 years passed after its construction, but the interior looks timeworn. The friend of mine, who was lucky to enter it, told me that they do not allow you to make picture inside, because it looks terrible. She also told me that you could enter only on rare occasions. I didn’t have such opportunity. But 10 minutes convinced me that Zaha Hadid’ building is the main reason for visiting Baku. It was and it still is.