Monday, January 25, 2016


Parallels are always intriguing. As with Edison and Swan, and what seems to be their shared 'light-bulb' moment, like forms often appear in architecture. It can never be said that one was related to the other, but the parallels can be pointed out. Here Gehry's little 2003 building quaintly named Maggie's Centre in Dundee, displays an irregularly folded roof form that wraps self-consciously, informally over a knobbly plan.

Maggie's Centre, Dundee

Riverside Muesum, Glasgow

Similar zigzagging roof profiles can be seen repeated in Hadid's 2011 Glasgow Riverside Museum, complete with the same zinc sheet detailing. One is left pondering on the possibilities of any relationship, such is the likeness.

Hadid displays sketches on her site suggesting the origins, growth and development of the concept from raw, personal inspiration, as does Gehry. Hadid further explains her forms as arising from the saw-tooth roof profile of the old industrial buildings once on the site; but here the distinctive profile is distorted. Gehry does not go beyond his scribbles to explain his sources. Somehow, someone has 'interpreted' the original Gehry concept sketch into these cryptic 'Maggie' masses with a kinky roof. Hadid's flowing plan incorporates another idea, onto which has been fitted the roof 'extrusions' that are like the Gehry profiles stretched along to fit the plan form. Just why this roof resolution might be necessary beyond the ambition to implement the zigzag idea is unclear when one walks through the Riverside Museum.

Both schemes have roofs that have little to do with their plans other than being there, and being 'interesting.' The fit of the Hadid roof seems more integral than that of the folded Gehry panels, but this is merely an observational aside. The point is not only that the expressions/impressions are similar in raw concept, but that admitting one as the source, the inspiration of the other, if it is, has become a problem. We have come to see such borrowings as less than desirable because of our effort to recognise only originality and personal creativity in assumed, often self-proclaimed genius. We have come to see the use of sources as stealing ideas; pilfering intellectual matter from others; a weakness; as claiming other's efforts to disguise our own lack of ingenuity, for our own purposes. The concept has very negative connotations. Is this why we live in such an architectural shambles, with everyone trying their hardest to be unique?

We forget that the history of architecture is littered with pattern books: sources. Once we get rid of this glorifying concept, the requirement for a special original outcome for everything, we might start to be able to concentrate more on genuine meaning in architecture, rather than place all of our efforts into hagiographical concerns. Tradition can help us here, both as an example, and as a source of theory too: if only we might take the time to look and consider – and learn.

Maggie's Centre, Dundee
Frank O. Gehry, 2003

Riverside Museum,
Scotland's Museum of Transport and Travel
Zaha Hadid, 2011

Zaha Hadid designed Maggie's Centre in Kirkcaldy, Fife, 2006:

The Architect and her creation

Maggie's Centre's Laura Lee on the healing power of architecture: see -

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.