An Excess of Unthinking Material: The Tectonic of Flow in Zaha Hadid’s recent work

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract / Description of output

Nanotechnology offers the future a new nightmare scenario, known as ‘Grey Goo’. What if Nano Robots – the invisible, automated and self-replicating workers of the future - get carried away, and perform their tiny duties with uncontrollable zeal? Our existing varied molecular structures could be eroded, reduced to more convenient common denominators. We could wake up to find the rich variety of life on earth homogenised, blended into a kind of post-mordial soup, or ‘Grey Goo‘.
Today, and at the scale of building, do we not already face precisely this scenario? Two contemporary tendencies suggest as much. Existing industrial techniques of automation - the combined efforts of lean manufacturing, legislative bodies and globalised finance vehicles - threaten to erode the familiar variety and specificity of life on earth. Our towns and cities are increasingly reduced to the ’Junkspace’ of sub-urban sprawl, business parks and shopping centres, which appear on the brink of coalescing into a single sprawling multi-function complex. Furthermore, a new language of architectural design is developing which looks distinctly gooey. This work - perhaps best represented in Europe by Zaha Hadid and Patrick Schumacher’s practice - is also interested in a technological imperative, but its built form is quite different to the gawky accidents of industry. The work is typified by fluid formalities, which often seem suggestive of magnified molecular structures. To what degree should we be concerned that Hadid’s recent work is a step further toward, or sinking in, to the future goo?
This paper considers the relation between these two industrial and architectural tendencies by looking closely at the tectonic, the making that is revealing, of Hadid and Schumacher’s recent work. In particular it will study the works relation to the new organizing principle of ‘flow’, which both tendencies claim to reveal through an employment of automated processes in design. The paper will argue, however, that Hadid’s recent practice is not the true Goo; it does not reveal a new tectonic of flow, but simply represents an image of flow. The paper will show this image to be an erotic image - an image of desire – and to be found most enjoyable in the crotches and clavicles of her work, in its aspects that are neither positively functional nor positively designed; in its excess of unthinking material. It will conclude by suggesting that this image is a fantasy compliment to the traumatic fact of today’s building industry; far from being born of an abandonment to automation, the image is a means to control the threat which automation poses to the traditional role of the architect.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventTectonics: Making Meaning - Eindhoven, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Mar 20068 Mar 2006


ConferenceTectonics: Making Meaning
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • virtual tectonics
  • digital technology


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