ST interview with Zaha Hadid: Building world-class architecture in Singapore

Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid outside one of her works, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London's Kensington Gardens.
Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid outside one of her works, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London's Kensington Gardens.PHOTO: AFP
British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid’s first high-rise residential project in Singapore, d’Leedon.
British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid’s first high-rise residential project in Singapore, d’Leedon.ST FILE PHOTO

Singapore's construction industry can gear up and deliver on what the best architects need to execute cutting-edge building designs, an internationally-renowned architect has said.

New design technologies, advanced materials and construction methods and precision have helped create “world-class cultural and residential projects” in Singapore, Ms Zaha Hadid told The Straits Times in an interview.

“There is a remarkable degree of enthusiasm, ambition and energy in Singapore that one finds in places where people have embraced the future with confidence – yet not forgotten the past.”

Iraqi-born Ms Hadid’s first high-rise residential project in Singapore, d’Leedon, was among the first few developments here to use Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology. This manages building processes by translating data on building structures into three-dimensional formats.

The 1,715-unit project in King’s Road recently obtained its Temporary Occupation Permit. It was developed by a CapitaLand-led consortium that includes Hotel Properties Limited, a fund managed by Morgan Stanley Real Estate, and Wachovia Development Corporation.

The total cost of developing the District 10 project was about $3 billion, including the $1.3 billion price tag for the 840,049 sq ft site which was bought in a collective sale in 2007.

Ms Hadid said she enjoys the construction stages most when she gets to work closely with engineers and contractors to develop the best methods of construction. “One of the most exciting parts of each project is the initial organisation, which allows the drawing of a new diagram for the building. That’s really the beginning of every project – and a very key point.”

Though the requirements for residential projects vary around the world, she noted that it is important for her as an architect to understand local and cultural preferences such that all residents will be able to enjoy their homes to the fullest.

“Having a comfortable home is such a crucial issue – not only in terms of a shelter and the basics – but also for well-being, for a better life,” she said.

“There’s enough total wealth today that all people should have a good home and access to good schools and hospitals.”
Ms Hadid – the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize – is now exploring the construction of “exoskeletons” on her projects.

This gives the structure a form of “fluidity” – a trademark of her signature use of curves in buildings.

At the same time, she is working on residential developments in New York, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, China, Mexico and Australia.