The shaping of tomorrows skyline, consists of futuristic buildings with inspiring features. The advances in technology have allowed us to create slim line computers, smartphones and hybrid cars, showcasing new heights of innovation.
The architectural influences on society have come into realisation. Imaginary art and crafts, based on functional space of the past, have come into actuality, and have been represented in its rarest forms of geometric construction. The world is coming to terms with a positive attitude towards the growth of new technology and high development futures. This piece of writing aims to explore how the views of futurism are reflected within todays architecture, particularly looking at Zaha Hadid Architects Antwerp Port House.
“I really believe in the idea of the future.” – Zaha Hadid (1)
The late architect Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid, who was globally recognised, for her neo-modernist approach and intense de-constructivist designs within the architectural industry, showcased her abstract designs consisting of, forms of morph, shape changing geometries, and abstraction, with the intention of breaking the rules of form and space. Furthermore, her designs incorporated cutting edge re-shaped surfaces to appear as deformed geometric shapes, almost crystal like debris. This is similarly shown within the work of futurist Sant’Elia, where he imagined new cities with towering apartments and facades of glass. I believe Hadid has truly shown this aspect within her designs and has influenced further change within her architectural style, being technologically driven.
The Antwerp Port House, designed by Hadid has signified the battle between past and present. Similarly through the concept of futurism, and its rejection towards traditional conventions, the production of art from first principles that is in accordance with the industrial and mechanical world that surrounded it. The redundant 20th century fire station also previously used as a warehouse represents the past, whilst the present is shown through the multifaceted shape of the extension seeking to undermine the original host building through subversion, as well as ignoring and seeking no acknowledgement whatsoever of the building bellow. Neither, in nor outside, is the building misunderstood when it comes to understanding what is new and old, with the exception, perhaps, of the short movement between the panoramic lift leaving the former fire station and entering the first floor of the office building. The extension seeks to glorify the technological advances of the dynamic modern world through its sharp angled facades and its choice of high-tech materiality, predominately consisting of glass and aluminium, having no relationship to the qualities of its subdued host.
Futurism, a short lived avant-garde movement of the 20th century, formerly constituted in Italy, just before the First World War. A movement seeking to oppress the weight of past cultures and lifestyles, instead encouraging to celebrate the modern world of industry and technology. The work of futurists used elements of neo -impressionism and cubism to create compositions that expressed the idea of the dynamism, the energy and movement of modern life. The Works of Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Umberto Boccioni, underline these ideologies, such as the abstract Speed and Sound Painting of 1913, the 1912, Dancer at Pigalle, oil painting, and the 1914 Spiral Expansion of Muscles in Action sculpture. These pieces of work have not only influenced its expression through art but through the way we live today. The movement has influenced generations of architects including Hadid, allowing them to see a city in a more radicalised manner, a site of speed and constant change, based in the possibilities of ever advancing technologies. The believe of imagining the impossible.
Hadid, who’s ethnic background was that of an Iranian decent, understood and captured her surroundings from a very young age. The open society of Bagdad, allowed her younger self to witness architecture and its impression on society. It was very much what influenced her into pursuing the craft, and that the injection of a new building could drive change economically as well as culturally, but most importantly seek to development a city through the understanding of change and future.
Seemingly the Antwerp project, aimed to bring together 500 staff that were working in various parts of the city, allowing them to operate more efficiently by centralising the administrative and technical services of the port. The addition of the office complex was to further contribute to the development of the city and encourage an upgrade to the local area, through the extension’s modern and technological approach. The best way to rebrand a certain area is by encouraging change, and this is what Hadid did by introducing the Antwer Port House.
“We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.” – Manifesto of Futurism (2)
The design of the port house was very much influenced by the encouragement of newer technologies, and shows a clear contrast between the two buildings. The mentioning of “time and space dyeing yesterday”, is truly conceptualised within the project, with the aged and derelict composition of the former fire station, and the contemporary intervention of the upscale office hovering over representing that of ‘life within todays world’, which is constantly chaining.
According to Hadid, “People forget what you can do through modern work, there was an obsession with historicism, vernacular, and postmodern design, so the idea of ‘new’ was almost alien.” 3 complementary of the movement of futurism, the quote shows Hadid’s perception of the world, and how we can sometimes become fixated on a regular way of life, that change is in order. This was also recognised within the movement as Filippo Tommaso Marinetti a futurist who fully grasped the possibilities of communicating his ideas of innovation and progression through mass media.