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Zaha Hadid Wins the German Architecture Prize

The Baghdad-born architect Zaha Hadid, who lives in London, counts among the top names of her craft: in 2004, she was the first woman to receive the Pritzer Architecture Prize, which is considered to be the “Nobel Prize for Architects.” The exhibition architecture she created in 2005 for “25,” the anniversary exhibition of the Deutsche Bank Collection at the Deutsche Guggenheim, was spectacular in every sense: visitors walked through tunnel-like corridors in a Futurist ambience that felt like a gigantic organism. In December, Hadid received another honor: she won the German Architecture Prize for her visionary design of the BMW works in Leipzig.

BMW plant Leipzig

“In the circus arena of contemporary architecture, Zaha Hadid is the unparalleled trapeze artist, a star,” as architecture critic Manfred Sack remarked during the award ceremony for the 25,000-Euro German Architecture Prize, which was awarded to the Iraqi architect in December of 2005. Indeed, Hadid always manages to turn her projects into media events. No other industrial building in Germany attracted more attention before its completion than the BMW plant she planned and realized in Leipzig, which were opened in May of last year. The comparisons for the high-tech headquarters range from space station to whale jaw; the structure contains 600 workplaces for engineers and students, conference rooms, exhibition spaces, and a restaurant. The transparency of the works is impressive: hanging from the ceiling of the foyer behind glass walls, car parts hover noiselessly above montage belts running high above the heads of staff and visitors.

The winner: Zaha Hadid, Zaha Hadid Architects, London

BMW plant Leipzig, central building: production of the BMW 3 series

These belts extend from the body works to the enamel area and from there to the montage halls that are clustered around the “heart” or “central nervous system” of the works. “The architectonic solution does not force itself into the foreground; instead, it develops from the function in a self-evident manner – and even clarifies it,” as Peter Claussen, director of the BMW plant in Leipzig, said in 2002 at the presentation of the winning designs of the architecture competition. At the BMW building in Leipzig, visitors can now gain a first-hand experience of what he meant by this. Hadid has not only staged the transport pathways within the automotive factory as part of a continuously flowing process of development; the working areas are designed in cascade form over several staggered levels. Large office spaces for administration contain glassed-in islands for meetings, while laboratory and conference rooms are connected by ramps, stairs, and hallways, and, symbolically, by conveyor belts, which are illuminated in blue.

The fact that the current award was given to a structure from the working world sets new accents, also for the German Architecture Prize, which is awarded by the EON Ruhrgas Company. In past years, it was primarily public buildings that received this honor, such as the "Bundeskanzleramt", the German Chancellor’s office in Berlin, whose planners were awarded the prize in 2003. The jury, which was comprised of internationally renowned architects, paid tribute to the BMW headquarters in Leipzig as a “completely new type of industrial architecture.” They deemed the building exemplary for the development of architecture in our time. It stands out by virtue of its innovation and its all-encompassing solutions as well as the way in which it contributes to the design of public space and takes environmental problems and the economies of heating supply into consideration.

Interior view, central building of the BMW plant Leipzig

The headquarters of the BMW Works in Leipzig is Hadid’s first industrial building. Hadid, who was born in 1950 in Baghdad, studied in London in the 70s with, among others, the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas; for a long time she was considered to be a purely theoretical thinker in architecture. Her deconstructivist designs were awarded in international competitions but were long considered impossible to build. Projects of hers that have been realized have been the fire station building of a furniture factory in Weil am Rhein in 1993; a pavilion for the State Garden Show of Baden-Würrtemberg in the same location in 1999; a ski-jumping platform in Innsbruck in 2002; an exhibition building in Cincinnati, USA, in 2003; and the Phaeno science center in Wolfsburg in 2005.
Maria Morais

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