Radical genius – Zaha Hadid leaves indelible mark on Macao’s skyline

8 July 2016

The late, great architect Zaha Hadid, also known as the “Queen of the Curve”, will soon posthumously change Macao’s architectural landscape. With the construction of the fifth hotel tower at the City of Dreams (COD), a six-year venture set to be completed in 2018, Macao’s skyline forever will be graced by the work of one of the most revolutionary modern-day architects and leaders of our era.

Hadid passed away on 31st March 2016, at the age of 65, leaving behind an indelible imprint upon the world of architecture. “She has added an enormous amount of language to architecture. She’s defined shapes that we never thought we could do; we never thought any architect could do,” said Sir Peter Cook, the English architect, lecturer, and writer.

The Iraqi-British mathematics graduate moved to London from Beirut in 1972 to study at the Architectural Association in London. In 1980, she established her London-based practice Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) with a staff of only ten. Today, her practice—now over 400 strong—has worked on over 950 projects in 44 countries.

Hadid’s achievements are vast and groundbreaking. In 2004, she was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, making her the first woman to receive one of the world’s most prestigious architecture awards. She won consecutive Stirling Prizes in 2010 and 2011, and in 2015 she received the Royal Gold Medal, bestowed by the Royal Institute of British Architects in recognition of her substantial contribution to international architecture. She was the first woman to receive such an honour. In 2012 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Hadid has garnered an international reputation for her geometrically-liberated and innovative masterpieces, one of which will soon join the ranks of Macao’s high-profile architectural projects, which include the Macao Science Center designed by Pei Partnership Architects in association with I. M. Pei, Rocco Yim’s Galaxy Starworld Hotel, MGM Macau designed by Wong Tung & Partners, and Manuel Vicente’s World Trade Center. For Hadid’s vision to be realised here in Macao is an enormous privilege.

An iconic landmark for Cotai

In 2012, Lawrence Ho, current Chairman and CEO of Melco Crown Entertainment, contacted ZHA to design COD’s jewel tower: an integrated entertainment resort. “[I have been] long impressed by the late legendary architect Dame Zaha Hadid’s unique insight on modern architecture and her aspirations in architectural design. The management team is singularly honoured to have [her design] the fifth tower of the City of Dreams,” says Ho, a prominent developer, owner, and operator of casino gaming and entertainment resort facilities in Asia.

“Ho was very clear in his direction and ambition for the project. The new hotel is expected to further strengthen the brand’s identity and Melco’s leadership in the premium market segment,” asserts Jaya Jesudason, Melco’s Executive Vice President of Construction and Design.

The fifth hotel tower, the company’s flagship property in Cotai, is designed as a singular sculptural element: mysterious and intriguing, its composition defies traditional architectural typologies. A series of voids is carved into a single entity to create a complex form reminiscent of an abstract figure 8 or double loop. The rectangular outline of the building is fashioned as one monolithic block with the voids sculpting a fluid continuum of walls and ceilings. The exposed exoskeleton mesh structure punctuates this archetype of neo-futurism.

Spanning 39 levels, the tower’s lower three levels are connected directly to the surrounding COD podium and will host public functions and house a casino floor. The entrance of the hotel ushers guests directly into the atrium, a 35-metre-high space rising into the voids above. This new tower will house approximately 780 guestrooms, suites, and villas with the capacity to cater events of 800.

“The initial design for the fifth hotel was mainly responding to two sets of constraints: a limited footprint and client requests for a higher quantity of varied programming. ZHA has taken on the challenge of designing an innovative building structure: multiple vistas, vertical atria, a stringent response between design and structure are key elements of Zaha Hadid Architects’ repertoire,” explains Viviana Muscettola, Senior Associate at ZHA and COD hotel tower project director.

With Macao’s abundant culture and diversity, Ho claims that he has always wanted to build something unique in and for the territory and is thrilled that Hadid and her team could realise this vision. Ho believes that “the new hotel is expected to greatly contribute to local tourism development through its enhanced cultural and visual landscape.”

Muscetolla echoes Ho’s hopes: “The new hotel will become a strong presence and statement within the COD site as well as an urban reference for the Cotai Strip, an area which has seen interest from a series of new developments and for which the new hotel will become a new iconic identity.”

The architectural designs of COD’s fifth hotel tower are already complete and the building is well under construction.  Upon completion in 2018, it will be one of the world’s most notable architectural works and will infuse cutting edge modernity into Macao’s skyline, firmly securing the territory’s place on the global architectural stage.

Asia’s contemporary heritage

For years, Hadid was one of the main architects shaping China’s landmarks and cityscapes.

In an April 2014 interview with the South China Morning Post, she asserts, “China became the land of opportunity; I think they are not scared of experimentation. People were always misunderstanding that and always imposing certain ideas on China. But it’s an incredible thing: I think it will go down in history as an amazing moment, the same way they built America.”

One of her most famous projects is the Guangzhou Opera House completed in 2010 and costing approximately US$200 million. The opera house’s main auditorium holds 1,804 seats with the smaller 443-seat multifunction hall designed for more intimate performance art, opera, and concerts.

Another work, the Galaxy SOHO building in Beijing completed in 2012, is the biggest shopping mall in Beijing. Despite being a commercial landmark, it is also one of the country’s most controversial structures, with critics claiming that the mall has contributed to the destruction of China’s architectural heritage.

As with many of history’s pioneers and visionaries, Hadid is a complicated heroine. Her politics and projects may not agree with everyone, but her achievements are undisputed and she has left behind a legacy that will inspire generations to come.

The Jockey Club Innovation Tower, a Hong Kong Polytechnic University building completed in 2014, is Hadid’s first permanent work in Hong Kong. The structure’s design promotes a multidisciplinary environment by connecting the various programs within the School of Design, where students, staff, and visitors integrate seamlessly throughout 15 levels of studios, workshops, labs, exhibition, and event spaces.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) in Seoul, South Korea, a major urban development landmark completed in 2014, cost US450 million—nearly 3 per cent of the city’s annual budget. Designed as a cultural hub, it is renowned for its 24-hour shopping and cafes and serves as the newest and most iconic landmark of South Korea’s design industry.

“Zaha is in the DNA of Zaha Hadid Architects”

ZHA has 36 ongoing projects in 21 countries either already under construction or in the detailed design and development phase. In Asia, these projects include the new Beijing Airport Terminal Building in Daxing, China, the Sleuk Rith Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the Danjiang Bridge in Taipei, Taiwan.

“Zaha is in the DNA of Zaha Hadid Architects, and everyone at ZHA is fully committed to continuing on this path and delivering fantastic projects. She continues to drive and inspire us every day, and we work on as Zaha taught us–with curiosity, integrity, passion, and determination–finding solutions to the defining challenges of our era,” asserts Muscetolla. (Macao Magazine, by Mariana César de Sá)