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Thursday
Sep262013

Zaha Hadid: Sackler at the Serpentine

Zaha Hadid, Sackler Gallery, Kensington Gardens, 2013

A provocative portrait of the architect and her building.  Zaha Hadid's addition to the Serpentine Gallery has opened; big fanfare, diehard modernism that neatly jumps over all those tedious conversations about architectural context and replication of: the original 1805 gunpowder magazine remains intact with its proportions correct, the new and necessary addition for a new gallery, restaurant and lobby lands like a hankie beside it.  

1805: Napoleon had designs on an invasion of Britain, the magazine was part of the defensive strategy, built in the gardens of Kensington Palace.  Just because it was a warehouse for armaments, no reason not to make it look lovely.  War with Napoleon appears to have been the backdrop to continuation of elegant Georgian reason: Jane Austen's novels are full of it; some of the most beautiful buildings in London are military.  Today, our military occupy dismal metal or concrete buildings set far away: aesthetics are, perhaps rightly, completely absent from military life, and the military is completely absent from public view.

All that aside, one feels it keenly, the absence of an aesthetic public realm here: no annual pavilion by famous architect set in beautiful palace gardens, no gallery additions by famous architect, no galleries actually.  Here in wealthy oil land life is very utilitarian. 

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