Old+New Book Review: Complete Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid: The Complete Buildings and Projects, published by Rizzoli, 1998. Paperback, 176 pages. (Amazon)

The Complete Zaha Hadid, Expanded and Updated, published by Thames & Hudson, 2017. Hardcover, 320 pages. (Amazon)

Back in 1998, six years before she would win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Rizzoli published The Complete Buildings and Projects of Zaha Hadid, featuring an introductory essay by Aaron Betsky, over sixty buildings and projects, and one spread of furniture and objects. At only 176 pages, it is a slim volume, about half as big as the latest expanded and updated Complete Zaha Hadid, published recently by Thames & Hudson. Between the first edition and latest update there were a few more: in 2009, 2013, and 2016, when I wrote about it briefly.

The number and frequency of the updates testify to the increasing output of Hadid's eponymous firm after her Pritzker Prize win, but the latest comes so soon after the previous due in part to Hadid's unexpected death last year. One need only read the first sentence of Betsky's introduction to realize this: "Zaha Hadid was a great cinematographer"; this sentence is the same in all previous editions with the obvious difference of "is" versus "was." Nevertheless, this will not be the last update, considering how many buildings of hers are being completed posthumously.

In last year's Book Brief I wrote that "thankfully Hadid's beautiful paintings from The Peak and other early projects are still an important part of the monograph." That remains true with the 2017 edition, but here I want to more closely compare it with the 1998 edition, in part to see if I keep that edition in my library, and to see if I recommend others search it out. Short answer: fans of Hadid's early work and her paintings should get it, while fans of her later work will be fine with the latest update.

One comparison reveals the differences. On page 32 of the newest update (spread above) is Kurf├╝rstendamm 70, an unbuilt project from 1986 for Berlin. It is documented with four paintings, some section drawings, and a couple paragraphs of text. Opposite is IBA-Blick 2, another Berlin project, but one that was completed in 1993. Both projects are documented in the first edition with four pages each. The unbuilt project (spreads below) includes the same five images (all larger) and text as well as more of Hadid's distinctive drawings and floor plans. This is just one example of why the first edition excels with these and other early projects.

But why not maintain these and other projects in their first-edition form? Space is obviously a factor. If certain projects were not truncated (more projects are truncated than the few completed buildings from the first edition), the latest update would be closer to 640 pages than 320 pages, making it heavier and more expensive, kind of like Frank Gehry's sizable Complete Works. But I'd also argue that the editing is a form of forgetting, of not dwelling on the unbuilt, of shifting the focus to more recent buildings and projects.

In terms of recent projects, the last project in the first edition -- the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati -- is a good marker in Hadid's shift from an angular, aggressive architecture to soft, fluid designs, enabled by computers and the contributions of Patrik Schumacher in her office. Much of what follows that building in the new book exhibits this formal shift, while also revealing how the buildings have increased in size and complexity and branched out to places like China and the UAE. Additionally, the number of objects and furniture has greatly increased, now with nearly fifty pages instead of just one spread -- another example of how in demand Hadid was from late last century until her shocking death last year.