As a member country of the former Soviet Union, Azerbaijan is still under the influence of the planning and architectural style of that era but tries to “escape” actively since obtaining independence in 1991. It is obvious that the government spends large sums of money on the modernization and development of infrastructure and architecture, they invite well-known architects, etc.
The city’s one of the most important projects was to build a cultural center named after Heydar Aliyev. In 2007, Zaha Hadid won the competition and therefore a new building has been added to the city, which is extravagant, futuristic and completely free from Soviet architectural design.
Flexible forms is no novelty to this region’s culture, throughout the history you can come across such samples in calligraphy, ornaments of the wall and ceiling or carpet drawings. It is what Hadid follows in her design work.
Construction began in 2007 and ended in May 2012. Its height is 74 meters and is located on 101801 square meters. The center is a combination of layers, which adds to the originality of the building. The landscape is terrace-like and using many exits connects the public square, cultural center and underground parking. There is a harmonious relationship between the interior of the building and a square around it, as they present the extension of each other and create a flexible transition. The cultural center is more than a building, it is the city’s urban landscape and amazes the guests. In the center there are a conference room, a gallery and a museum. It is close to the city center and plays a leading role in the intellectual development.
During the construction, the most difficult and challenging element was creation of the external surface. Having a homogeneous surface required a variety of advanced technologies and technical systems to unite. Despite the complexity of this task Hadid’s team successfully dealt with a fore-mentioned. The center mainly consists of two interconnected cooperating systems: the cement structure combined with space frame system. So that visitors could move around in vast space, where there would not be poles, but flexible interior would be loaded with transitional forms, the vertical elements of the structure became attributed to the curtain-like wall. The surface is reflecting light and based on the time of day, is represented differently.
Heydar Aliyev’s cultural center gained international recognition and was awarded by Design Museum. Still, as always, it was harshly criticized. It was claimed that construction used illegal workforce, unlawful seizure of living spaces took place; Despite this, the center remains a subject of universal approval, it gives us hope that the world will continue to implement similar projects and post-Soviet countries will widely offer such modern solutions.
Author: Mary Khamkhadze
English Edit: Nutsa Namoradze