Who gets the last masterpiece by Zaha Hadid in Russia?

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Who gets the last masterpiece by Zaha Hadid in Russia?
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The competition for the concept of Sberbank Technopark was won by a project from the famous British architect Zaha Hadid. It became the last creative work by the female architect.

This project, by chance, became the last work by the outstanding British architect of Iraqi origin, Zaha Hadid, who died suddenly in March. The Sberbank Technopark, which will be located in the Skolkovo innovation centre, will be by the late first lady of architecture.

Zaha Hadid is a laureate of the highest architectural award, the Pritzker prize. Dozens of buildings all over the world have been constructed according to her projects, and now one of her buildings will appear in Russia.


Her buildings blend with nature

Architectural critics have more than once remarked that Zaha Hadid experiments at the edges of architecture and design. It's no coincidence that her workshop produces so many cult objects such as furniture, lamps, objects d’art, etc.

Much has been spoken of her work at the edge of architectonics and geology, smoothly inserting her buildings in the terrain so that the impression arises that they are the continuation of the geographical relief. She was not afraid of fluent forms and bravely used the most modern construction materials for her designs.

The latest (and, alas, the last) project by the famous architect - the IT-Technopark of Sberbank in Skolkovo – embodies all of her versatile talents.

As a reminder, the five largest architectural bureaus were chosen for participation in the international competition for the Skolkovo Technopark concept: Foster+Partners (Great Britain), Zaha Hadid Architects (Great Britain), Eric Owen Moss Architects (the USA), Speech (Russia), and Fuksas (Italy).

Highly authoritative representatives of architecture, construction and business communities were invited onto the jury, notably Alejandro Aravena, a famous Chilean architect, a Pritzker prizewinner, and the supervisor of the current Venice Biennale – 2016;Jean Pistre, a French architect, and Chair of the Skolkovo Urban Development Council:Marat Khusnullin, Deputy Mayor of Moscow on urban development policy and construction; German Gref, President and Chair of the Board of Sberbank of Russia.

Photo: Skolkovo Sberbank’s Technopark, Zaha Hadid Architects


A unique object for Moscow

The Moscow architectural authorities have more than once been reprimanded for creating new public spaces without paying attention to architecture. Not a single significant object, from an architectural standpoint, is said to have appeared in Moscow recently.

There now seems to be an opportunity for Moscow to receive a really unique building from an architectural point of view.

According to Sergei Kuznetsov, Chief Architect of Moscow, all of the projects presented were very interesting, and the competition was a real feast of architecture.

We agree with Mr Kuznetsov and will try to speak about each project on the shortlist in detail.


What is the Speech about?

The Russian Speech bureau, headed by Sergei Choban, presented a very interesting project. As a representative of the company, Anton Pavlov, said, presenting the project, the Technopark concept is based on “transparent” architecture, capable of the transformation of both inner and outer spaces, where boundaries are absolutely conventional.

Photo: Skolkovo Sberbank’s Technopark, SPEECH

There is a lot of air and sun in the project, and it seems to be saturated with “pure oxygen”. The building is viewed from all levels. The full glazing of the facades creates fantastic effects, both inside and outside the building. The layout of the offices is based on the combination of different functional modules: areas of personal activity, relaxation, collaboration, etc.

The important element of the building is its operational “green” roof, on which a swimming pool, a volleyball court or an arboretum may be placed. To cut a long story short, the Russian project was a serious contender for victory.


Fuksas: not Olympic rings

The focus of the concept of the Italian Fuksas bureau is the overlapping and interplay of simple elements (rings). The heart of the project is a central hub including presentational, research and educational areas.

 Photo: Skolkovo Sberbank’s Technopark, Fuksas


Interactive photodiode facades are used in the project. Office spaces are individual, flexible and functional. Corresponding infrastructure – winter gardens, standard lamps, meeting and communication areas – add charm to the project. It is no wonder that there were some big fans of the project in the jury.


Foster thought of a bubble roof

The Technopark variant suggested by another famous architect, Norman Foster(Foster + Partners), represents three interconnected buildings: SberTech, Sberbank and a central hub in the inner yard, united under an integral translucent envelope.

 Photo: Skolkovo Sberbank’s Technopark, Foster + Partners


The vast space is very cozy due to the glass roof covering the Technopark area, with its compact hemispheres of mini-offices. The translucent envelope resembles a bubble with a flexible contour. By the way, German Gref liked this project most of all, but he was not the only decision maker, so the maestro of British architecture ceded to his no less famous countrywoman.


Horns of technoabundance by Eric Moss

American architect Eric Owen Moss (Eric Owen Moss Architects) offered up an absolutely fabulous project. The “body” of the modern building, made from glass and concrete, are pierced with either medieval towers or the stylized horns of a giant animal. The towers/horns are dimensionalized and twisted into elaborate knots. The form seems to have got distorted while travelling through time.

 Photo: Skolkovo Sberbank’s Technopark, Eric Owen Moss Architects


Conference halls were supposed to be located in the towers, and rectangular piazzas around the perimeter of the inner yard were to contain media-areas. This interesting (from an architectural point of view) project is thought not to have won because of its complexity.


The architecture lady’s will

After lively discussions, the variant by Zaha Hadid Architects won.

— The bureau offered the concept of the so called “deep office”, Sergei Kuznetsov said. It allows bank employees to work in small groups of 4—5 people, whilst at the same time being part of a large team of 100 or more people who need to communicate with each other. On the whole, according to the Moscow Chief Architect, the competition became a wonderful opportunity for Moscow to receive a luxurious object.

 Photo: Skolkovo Sberbank’s Technopark. Offices layout, Zaha Hadid Architects


Project manager Christos Passas (who will now be responsible for the project instead of the dearly departed Zaha Hadid), while presenting his project proposal, spoke of new opportunities for the transformation of working areas as seen by the bureau. In particular, this will involve the maximal amount of light and fresh air in the operational environment.

The building, like all of Zaha Hadid’s projects, looks fantastic. The levels and floors are penetrated with either giant chordae or gargantuan sized mushrooms. Biomorphic forms are added with fluent operational modules and communication marches. The spatial layout supposes the horizontal and vertical permeability of the building, providing for the comfortable connection of all the functional elements.

 Photo: Skolkovo Sberbank’s Technopark, Zaha Hadid Architects

Special attention in the project is paid to the principle of the transformability (feasibility) and mobility of the “office area” of the Technopark. Alongside the territory’s open layout of the principal operational areas, there are a number of closed zones providing for confidentiality and isolation so necessary in the banking business.


Will the Technopark become a Mecca?

According to primary calculations, the building’s design development may take about a year. As the Sberbank President and Chair of the Board, German Graf, remarked earlier, it would take about two years to erect the object. So, in three or four years we will be able to evaluate this creation by the famous architect.

As we were told by the Moscow City Architectural Committee, Zaha Hadid’s bureau will be involved in the project’s development regarding “architectural decisions” and “structural decisions”.

Besides this, the winning bureau will help with consultations at the stage of the project’s implementation.

Alas, this will be the first object from Zaha Hadid which the author will not see, but we will be able to enjoy the avant-garde architecture of this super-building. It may become a tourist attraction like, for example, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, by Frank Gehry, or the famous bridges by the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava.

Anyway, the construction of the unique object is to begin soon.