Put A Diamond On It: Zaha’s Decadent Port Authority For Antwerp

Her name is familiar – too familiar for many, if architectural forums around the web are anything to go by – but Zaha Hadid has conjured up a surprisingly unfamiliar answer to the brief for the reinvention of Antwerp’s Port Authority Headquarters, enveloping and expanding the city’s disused fire station at the edge of the harbour. The project broke ground in October 2012, and the construction phase is now in full swing – the estimated completion date is June 2015.

As of 2014, Antwerp’s Port is midway through an 18-year development plan, currently overseen by city architect Kristiaan Borret. Other projects in the vicinity, intended to transform the dockside region through ‘slow urbanism’, have been guided by the scale and massing of local waterfront warehouses, with a modern twist on traditional Flemish architectural styles. Neutelings Riedijk’s MAS (Museum aan de Stroom) and towers by Diener & Diener have indicated how radical urbanism can be crafted with subtle and astute nods to cultural context. It is highly unlikely that the word ‘subtlety’ and the acronym ‘ZHA’ have been used in the same sentence for at least a decade…

Zaha has been in the news an awful lot recently, for her shoes as much as her buildings. She has now combined the two, as Antwerp is treated to an enormous, crystalline stiletto, crashing through the roof of the old fire station: despite the lack of Hadid’s much-maligned parametric curves and swathes of white concrete, this effort is no less ostentatious than any of her other recent attention-grabbers.


Looking at the looming, diamond shaped form above the classical aesthetic of the original station building, one wonders if Zaha may have scribbled her concept for this structure on a napkin whilst at dinner with a certain Mr Libeskind. The unapologetic juxtaposition of old and new here echoes Libeskind’s approach to the Royal Ontario Museum extension in Toronto, and his violent intervention to Dresden’s Museum of Military History. She may also have been taking notes on his questionable design rationale, which frequently revolves around the very literal interpretation of a contrived metaphor: Zaha has chosen to pay homage to Antwerp’s diamond industry by designing an enormous… diamond. Profound!

The building’s precarious composition also has a hint of Will Alsop’s OCAD, which hovers above Toronto’s Grange Park like a cheerful alien spacecraft. Indeed, Zaha has flirted with Alsop’s colourful palette on the interior, where sunshine yellow conference rooms form a welcome moment of contrast within a sea of relentlessly monochromatic office spaces. Speaking of which, those in charge at the Port Authority had better set an extortionate budget for their computing equipment, because only Macs will comply with these unadorned internal landscapes.


While the gratuitous, curvaceous forms – ‘Hadidisms’, if you will – have been given a well-earned break, certain factors synonymous with Zaha are still very much evident here: sleek, corporate interiors abound, and the flamboyant boat-like form is very much in keeping with ZHA’s reputation as the world’s premier Icon Vendor. Whether the locals will warm to this particular icon remains to be seen…

Yours fashionably,

The Angry Architect

Images: thesuperslice.com

Paranoid Giant: Ground Zero’s Cathedral of Commerce Is The Ultimate Failure of Courage

A significant event in the 14 year saga of New York’s Ground Zero took place last month, as the observation deck of One World Trade Center was finally opened, allowing the public to rise up to the summit of SOM’s steel and glass spire for the first time.


Now the dust of construction has settled, we take a look back to the beginning, when designs on this – the fragile heart of NYC – began to take shape. How has the design of this skyscraper evolved over the past decade, and what does the process say about post-9/11 Western Society?

The timelapse elevator ride up WTC 1 includes a brief glimpse of Yamasaki’s Twin Towers


December 2002 – Daniel Libeskind’s ‘Freedom Tower’ was unveiled. Saturated with meaning, the ‘Skyscraper as Symbol’ was taken to a whole new level of complexity, in keeping with the extraordinary social and political demands of this loaded design brief. There were layered references to the past here: the tower’s offset spire echoed the raised arm of the Statue of Liberty… then, of course, there was that 1776-foot height, matching the year of American Independence.


Defining the height of a skyscraper using a historical date appears to laugh in the face of design by function, form or any tangible sense of architectural logic. However, these kinds of symbolic gimmicks were exactly the features that won the public over in the torrid months following their national tradegy: Libeskind successfully tapped into the emotional rationale of New Yorkers. I’ll call that ‘Libeskind Logic’.

Ground Zero’s Cathedral

Evolution of the design for WTC 1… then and now.

11 years on and after many fractious debates and redesigns, Skidmore Owings and Merrill – led by David Childs – have well and truly stamped their authority on the final incarnation. The spire is centered, the form filled out (incidentally creating thousands more square feet of lucrative commercial office space), and the base is encased with concrete and steel in an effort to deter would-be terrorists from attacking at ground level.

This last feature tells its own story: One World Trade Center has been the subject of exponential pragmatism, as the metaphor-ridden glass sabre of Libeskind was diluted to incorporate more leasable space – money talks – and security measures to calm the shredded nerves of the populous. The original American symbol of strength – the skyscraper – has become a paranoid giant, wearing a steel crown and the heaviest pair of lead boots imaginable.

Ground Zero’s Cathedral

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is that, with all these practicalities dissolving Libeskind’s original vision, the most irrational of design features – the 1776-foot height – remains. SOM stole the freedom away from the Freedom Tower, but left the public with one small reminder of why the USA is still a country of liberty and independence… just.

Yours metaphorically,

The Angry Architect

Images: © 2011 Studio Daniel Libeskind and Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP

Masters of Space and Time: 8 Watches Designed by Architects

8 Watches Designed by Architects

If there is one thing architects never seem to have quite enough of, it’s time. Rarely are there enough hours in the day to sleep, eat, socialize and design a career-defining architectural landmark — but we do our best to make every second count. Perhaps that is why so many architects are fascinated by timepieces and have switched buildings with watches on their drawing boards over the years. From Gehry to Graves, each watch in this collection reflects its designer’s architectural ideals and reveals their love for the detail-oriented challenges of industrial design. Waste no time in admiring these classic clock faces:

8 Watches Designed by Architects

Via Virginia Duran

Positive/Negative by Frank Gehry

Designed for classic high-end brand Fossil, the unconventional display on Gehry’s watch merges digital technology with a hand-sketched aesthetic. It also offers owners a characteristically quirky way to tell the time: rather than 2:49, the watch above reads “11 til 3.”

8 Watches Designed by Architects

Via Selectism

Déjà Vu by Denis Guidone

This minimalist timepiece by Italian designer Denis Guidone — who studied architecture and urban planning in both Milan, Italy and Oporto, Portugal — is defined by light. Both minute and hour hands leave a trail of light in their wake, transforming the clock face into an abstract artwork.

8 Watches Designed by Architects

Via Richard Meier and Partners Architects

High Museum by Richard Meier

American architect Richard Meier designed this wearable homage to his High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. The pale, semi-opaque clock face and minimal detailing evokes the modernist aesthetic of one of Meier’s most well-known buildings, and can be illuminated to read the time after dark.

8 Watches Designed by Architects

Via Watch Reviews and Discount Codes

Junghans Automatic by Max Bill

The multi-skilled Max Bill was an architect, industrial designer, artist and graphic designer who studied under Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee at the Bauhaus in Dessau in the late 1920s. His watch design reflects the philosophies of the famous school and incorporates a minimal display, carefully crafted details and beautiful materials.

8 Watches Designed by Architects

Via Virginia Duran

Botta 2 Watch by Mario Botta

Swiss architect Mario Botta’s buildings are characterized by bold forms and distinctive geometry, and so is the Botta 2 Watch. The clock face is encircled by a thick gray band that frames a minimal display — evoking the circular centerpiece of the architect’s original design for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

8 Watches Designed by Architects

Via MCA Store

Cubit Watch by Michael Graves

For his contribution to the Projects range of watches, the late Michael Graves was uninterested in confining himself to the straight-laced look adopted by many of the other architects on this list. The American master of Postmodernism opted instead for a bold combination of three-dimensional geometry and vivid colors, with a cube of azure seemingly floating in a sea of brushed chrome.

8 Watches Designed by Architects

Via Virginia Duran

Free Time by Laurinda Spear

Arquitectonica cofounder Laurinda Spear’s watch displays a radical interface that does away with numbers and hands. Each ring on the abstract clock face rotates in time with the hours, minutes and seconds, mimicking the celestial orbit of planets around the Sun.

8 Watches Designed by Architects

Will.i.am’s multi-use Puls Smart Cuff …

8 Watches Designed by Architects

… and Zaha Hadid’s special-edition version; via Forbes

Bonus: Puls Smart Cuff by Will.i.am and Zaha Hadid

Former Black Eyed Pea and occasional industrial designer Will.i.am’s multi-use, high-tech wristband didn’t go down so well with the critics at Gizmodo, Mashable or The Verge — but did you know that star architect Zaha Hadid created a special edition of the Puls cuff? The British-Iraqi architect’s version has a striking sculptural form, but perhaps those who look for a well-functioning smartwatch should look elsewhere…