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Architectural Piracy?
February 15, 2013 2:02 PM   Subscribe

How good is Zaha Hadid's new building? So good it's already being copied. And the copy may be finished before the original.

Pierres Vives by Zaha Hadid

The Tale Of A Door Handle
posted by the man of twists and turns (33 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
I feel comfortable doing away with that question mark.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:11 PM on February 15, 2013


I'm waiting for the day when China creates a knock-off of itself.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:21 PM on February 15, 2013


A good long read, originally from The New Yorker, about Zaha Hadid (story continues in linked .pdf).
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:24 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a parable about one set of rules for the money and another set of rules for the rest of us in here somewhere.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:30 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno, both of them look like they're trying to evoke Chicago's "Bean", which seems like it's a materials science exercise away from The Albany Egg.

You've got totally different site plans, the Hadid building has a little more lean and narrowness to it. I mean, I understand why prima donna starchitects and their clients get upset, but piracy would involve actually ripping off the difficult parts: The engineering and materials management.

And if those aren't the difficult parts, then you're just doing 21st Century Baroque and I don't care.
posted by straw at 2:35 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it seems like the client is more upset than Zaha - her quote in the article is pretty blase. If I were Zaha, my primary concern would be that they're building the other building cheaper and faster - what does that say about my project management?
posted by LionIndex at 2:42 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hear the sign-up fee for metafilter.cn is only $2.
posted by mazola at 2:51 PM on February 15, 2013 [11 favorites]


Architecture fans will recognise this as prior art for a very well known London building. The prior art is dated 1910.
posted by jfuller at 2:53 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


Surely there is more to copying a building than can be accomplished in Photoshop.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:54 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it seems like the client is more upset than Zaha - her quote in the article is pretty blase. If I were Zaha, my primary concern would be that they're building the other building cheaper and faster - what does that say about my project management?

If I were Zaha, I would probably react the same way. Look, maybe my design that I worked long and hard on is basically stolen, but hey, everyone will know its MY design, and that gets my name out there more and generates more interest in my style of architecture. Its free advertisement, really.
posted by i less than three nsima at 2:56 PM on February 15, 2013


Can someone explain the story of the door handles to me?
posted by sauril at 2:59 PM on February 15, 2013



I hear the sign-up fee for metafilter.cn is only $2.
posted by mazola at 2:51 PM on February 15 [+][!]


This is a perfect analogy. It's the content not the format that matters. Yes - the copy uses the same style cues as the orginal - but that's about it. Those lights are terrible - and how it occupies its site is little more than afterthought.

The killer of great architecture is the sense of space and proportion - how it moves and evelopes you. The devils are then in the details - the material used, the care and craftmanship. I have seen plenty of knockoffs while living in China - and believe - there is no comparison to the orginals. The knock offs here look terrible - even in model form.
posted by helmutdog at 3:00 PM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just finished reading 1493, and there's an interesting bit about trade in porcelain produced in colonial Mexico for the European market: they were trying to copy Chinese designs. (And turns out quite a few of the workers were actually Chinese or Philippino immigrants to Mexico.) After a few hundred years, those distinctive pieces have quite a bit of value themselves. So now there are modern Chinese knockoffs, and the folks who deal in the "originals" are very frustrated with it. [I'm paraphrasing.]

Copies all the way down, I guess.
posted by epersonae at 3:25 PM on February 15, 2013


Can someone explain the story of the door handles to me?

I was briefly and peripherally involved in the fabrication of those lever handles (that's what I do) but I'm as confused as you. I think the article might be suggesting that the levers were some kind of 'fuck you' to the client, but actually they're really cool. The diction of the whole article is hilarious. His blog might as well be subtitled 'I learnt my English in Germany, you know.'
posted by tigrefacile at 3:26 PM on February 15, 2013


The "pirated" version is not "pirated" at all. It's similar, but far from a copy--let alone a passably exact one. And it's a fraction of the size, so, yeah, it'll be completed sooner. I'm not really seeing what the whole fuss is about. It's like Mies van der Rohe having a shit-fit over someone else building a big rectangle.

Congratulations, Hadid; you are officially influential.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:26 PM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]


Can someone explain the story of the door handles to me?

When there was only one set, that's when Jesus was carrying you.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:22 PM on February 15, 2013 [10 favorites]


But if Jesus was carrying me, who opened the door?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 4:46 PM on February 15, 2013


Jesus doesn't NEED door handles. He died so the rest of us could have door handles.
posted by localroger at 4:49 PM on February 15, 2013


The Tale Of A Door Handle

This is a nice little story and one weird door handle. I'm a nut for the little details of architecture like door handles and hardware choices that no one gives a crap about until they go wrong. Someone, I think it's Stewart Brand in How Buildings Learn (yep, it was), wrote about how architects go to great lengths planning spaces, meeting with clients to evaluate their conflicting needs and desires, reconciling spatial, aesthetic, utilitarian, engineering, and code constraints (among others) in preparing their designs. They'll coordinate with the engineers and the builders to see their vision realized. But they rarely ever go back six months, a year, or even five years later to see how the project worked out and how the space gets used. Brand quotes one architect as saying, "Oh, you never go back! It's too discouraging." But if architects never have to find out how their creations fare in the real world, they never get better at actually producing utility for their clients.

That failure is what leads to the tyranny of stupid design choices that surround us, even in new and acclaimed building projects. I'm thinking of an award-winning synagogue design where the chapel and sanctuary feature $10K doors that have to have some of the loudest door latches I've ever heard. Even with automatic closers, the doors announce their closures with a tremendous click, every frickin' time (I've seen similar fails in hospitals and nursing homes too). Leaving aside the issue of why a cash-strapped religious institution needed or approved ten thousand dollar doors, it's obvious that someone specified this hardware with absolutely no regard for where or how it would be used. And that's ok; everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes we forget to consider an important detail when planning large projects. But it's also obvious that the famous architect here, and more importantly, whichever of his minions spec'd the doors, never learned of this mistake and is probably running around the world driving more people to insanity with yet more overpriced clicky doors.

Architects rightly hear about it and catch hell when buildings collapse or simply don't meet code, but there's no feedback mechanism in place for the little details that we interact with every single day. Buildings would behave rather differently if architects had to spend more time with doormen, superintendents, handymen, janitors, and even just the ordinary occupants of the the structures they design.
posted by zachlipton at 5:08 PM on February 15, 2013 [15 favorites]


piracy would involve actually ripping off the difficult parts:

Like the actual building.

This is just the grown-up version of "Stop dressing like me!"
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:34 PM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


whichever of his minions spec'd the doors

Gah. What I meant to write: "whichever of his minions spec'd the doors that interrupt the daily minyan."
posted by zachlipton at 6:02 PM on February 15, 2013


my primary concern would be that they're building the other building cheaper and faster - what does that say about my project management?

That they're proceeding according to your instructions and not cutting as many corners as they might without your oversight?
posted by anonymisc at 6:27 PM on February 15, 2013


That design looks so ugly and out-of-place to me (okay, everything built in Beijing is out of place these days). Maybe I just have no eye for architectural design.
posted by fatehunter at 6:44 PM on February 15, 2013


Quickbprints.com review score: F

Service: Acceptable, if a little brusque

Quality of product: Requested print for completion of Room Design 320 group project. Was provided with blueprint for breeding tunnels under Denver International Airport.

Overall experience: world government prison. Would not use again.
posted by passerby at 7:26 PM on February 15, 2013


If she didn't want her architecture pirated she should have released it in a DRM e-version for free and made her money through donations. Or maybe kickstarter.
posted by Justinian at 8:19 PM on February 15, 2013


Her design has elegance; the knock-off is clumsy. That said, yes, congratulations -- you're influential.

It mainly pisses me off that the most interesting architecture gets in the US these days is Korean Airlines building a new Wilshire Grand as a skyscraper that would perhaps have been interesting in Hong Kong or Singapore a decade ago. And it's only as interesting as it is because the developer is Korean Airlines.

(Even Aqua is just a box with a wavy balcony treatment.)
posted by dhartung at 11:14 PM on February 15, 2013


Yeah. Still, better than a box without any sort of interesting balcony treatment.
posted by Justinian at 11:46 PM on February 15, 2013


Well, that isn't my point -- it's that there seems to be a very conservative upper bound on tall building architecture in the US. Aqua's not a bad looking building or a bad way to treat a box, but we have nothing like Hadid's fluid structures. Chicago almost had a Calatrava-designed spire that towards construction got less and less interesting (first drawings resembled a corkscrew), and we have spiky things like One WTC, but most notable tall buildings are boxes with interesting exterior treatments like the NYT building. We can't get even one of these, but Asia has them everywhere. It says a lot about where innovation is taking place and it says a lot that it's taking place somewhere where it's copycatted the instant the drawings are spit out online.
posted by dhartung at 1:46 AM on February 16, 2013


The problem with applying artistic whimsy to projects of this magnitude is that the unintended consequences can bite you on the ass hard. Consider the Denver Cash Register Building, whose relatively timid non-flat roof causes avalanches. Or the way nearly everything ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright leaks. Being playful with something that costs hundreds of millions of dollars carries risks that not everyone who has the hundreds of millions of dollars will want to bear, when there are techniques that are known to work.
posted by localroger at 7:35 AM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's worth noting that most of the tall interesting buildings in the world are built in areas where it doesn't snow and earthquake risk isn't particularly high... or people just don't give a damn. The Tokyo skyline, for example, is a lot less interesting than the Hong Kong skyline. Charlotte has a better skyline than Milwaukee. The Lego cities of China have awesome skylines, until an earthquake hits.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:53 AM on February 16, 2013


May I present to you: Window on the World, Shenzhen.
posted by mdonley at 8:05 AM on February 16, 2013


That they're proceeding according to your instructions and not cutting as many corners as they might without your oversight?

But then they get a crappy building that doesn't really look like mine and why should I be worried anyway.
posted by LionIndex at 8:35 AM on February 16, 2013


Barely apropos, and not to derail, but Zaha Hadid's new Broad Art Museum at MSU is a real stunner. (Only her second building in the States, I think?) I made it out there on a road trip last weekend, and was simply amazed -- magnificent inside and out, and one of those buildings it's simply impossible to take a bad picture of. Highly recommended, if you're ever anywhere near East Lansing.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:14 PM on February 16, 2013


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