Dear Zaha Hadid. A conversation between Alessandro Mendini and the Iraqi architect

We publish from the Domus Archive the interview between the director Alessandro Mendini and the young Iraqi architect, photographed on the cover of May 1984.

A. Mendini, Dear Zaha Hadid. From Domus 650, May 1984.

A. Mendini: You are known specially for your drawings of architecture where you combine virtuoso techniques with the historical suprematist idiom and that of electronics. How do you situate your work within the architectural panorama today?
Z. Hadid: It is not for me to place my work in the architectural panorama of today. What I had hoper was that it might be understood not on the lever of aesthetics or graphic bur, more importantly, as the implication of such an architecture at this moment in time. I would like it to be seen as work relevant to the latter part of the twentieth century, the projected territory of the next one; in the significance of modernity beyond its formal implications and the emphasis on the program as the only vehicle to explore future territories in architecture.

AM: You teach Architectural Design at the Architectural Association on London. Do you think architecture can be taught?
ZH: Facts could be taught but thinking cannot. For me teaching is a learning experience and that is why it excites. Our role in it as teachers of architecture is that of directing and guiding future of ideas and ultimately to the implementation and execution of these ideas. Design is a philosophy and can only be self-taught.

Design is a philosophy and can only be self-taught

AM: You have just won the Hong Kong Peak Competition, one of themes important to be announced in recent times. Do you feel fulfilled in your drawings or is your problem building?
ZH: Drawing is a veri exciting and interesting medium, the one I enjoy most in architectural representation. Let’s say the one I can manipulate the most to date. It is not only used to illustrate architecture and describe it but through it one can explore territories of design, and it can also act as a way of telling the story of that architecture. As for the Peak, ultimately to build it will be most fulfilling and rewarding for it certainly was never seen as an exercise in drawing ingenuity.

AM: Does design interest you? Do you consider design and architecture very different to each other?
ZH: Design is an aspect of architecture and at times cannot be separated from it. Design is a system of thinking which does not only rely on talent for there is not substitute for intelligence. Without both there can be no architecture.

AM: Mention a few phenomena, things or persons that interest you.
ZH: I thought the age of phenomena was over or am I wrong? This might seem odd, but quite frankly the one thing that intrigues me most is the function of the human brain as a guiding force.

The Domus page with Alessandro Mendini’s editorial, Cara Zaha Hadid, in Domus 650, May 1984

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