Janis Saltans’ distinguished architectural career spans thirty years and is defined by a creatively diverse design portfolio. With specific focus on architecture, urban design and master planning, he has designed notable projects in various countries including China, Japan, Russia, Poland, Latvia, Turkey, and the United States. Saltans Architects, founded and directed by internationally recognized architect Janis Saltans, is an international practice based in Chicago and Hong Kong, with associate offices in Shenzhen, Beijing and Istanbul.
Zaha Hadid’s contributions to architecture
Dame Zaha Hadid’s unique vision, creative energy and inspirational spirit has profoundly influenced architecture, architects and the design world. Beginning with her early, academic investigations informed by the Soviet Avant Garde and Russian Suprematism, she envisioned a radically new architecture of dynamism and movement. Represented through exquisitely beautiful paintings and drawings, her personal imprimatur was forceful and singular. Incredible projects and visionary ideas were a constant, yet few designs were built. Sustained by a forceful will and courage, eventually more projects began to be realized, making physically tangible her creative exploration of space.
Appropriating and exploiting developments in digital modeling software, her architecture and design work became more fluid, with sinuous forms derived from a poetic parametricism. Pushing limits in structure, material and form, her architecture promoted technological advancement, innovation and an optimistic future. From the early structural bravura of the Phaeno Science Centre in Germany, to the lyrical voluptuousness of the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, her creative arc was always ascending. Zaha Hadid’s contributions to architecture were enormously manifold; therefore singling out a few, undeservedly excludes many. Her oeuvre was unprecedented, and sadly cut short.
her place as a woman in the world of architecture
Zaha Hadid was inspirational and fearless – an architect who was a phenomenal force in the world of architecture. Undeniably, she was a trailblazer and an extraordinary role model for women, in a field which unfortunately is still a male dominated profession. Her achievements and tireless perseverance triumphed over the opposition and unfair treatment she experienced from misogynists, detractors and jealous critics.
the influence of her origins on her style
Her origin influenced her approach towards architecture and relationship with the profession. Having grown up in a secular and modernizing Baghdad, that cultural milieu was host to projects by Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Gropius – projects which she suggested perhaps inspired her career choice. During this period, an Iraqi female pursuing an architectural degree was not considered unusual, and she subsequently furthered her studies in London. Her unique biography and exposure to different cultures, intellectually informed her ability to assimilate and confront multiple influences and values. While Zaha Hadid established and grew her office in England, her work was not British architecture. Rather, it was transformative architecture originating from her unique perspective.
Her buildings must be experienced; viewing photos or drawings offers only a glimpse, an abstraction. I have visited many of Zaha Hadid’s projects, nearly all in Asia, with the lone exception being the Burnham Pavilion in Chicago. From Beijing’s futuristic Galaxy Soho and Wangjing Soho complex, the Guangzhou Opera House, to the Hong Kong Polytechnic Innovation Tower, each of these large scale projects individually responds to context, form and function. Conceptually, they explore the plasticity of space and form, and challenge standardized limitations and conventional urban responses. Their physical execution, quality of construction, and detail resolution varies though. In my view, this is a result of the uneven quality of construction, and the project delivery process in China. When the design architect actively participates in the entire project process there, remarkable projects can be realized by technically qualified contractors with appropriate budgets.
When the final detailing and finished execution is excluded from the process, the results can be visible in some of Guangzhou Opera House’s poor detailing. Conceptual and formal results are stunning, but instances of inferior workmanship temper the experience. Yet, the spatial quality generated by the curvilinear, sinuous forms of Galaxy Soho, and the dynamic vertical and horizontal expression of the Innovation Tower can be breathtaking. Equally beautiful, is the smaller scale precision, expressive manipulation of luxury materials, and the specially designed furniture and display elements of the Stuart Weitzman boutique in Hong Kong.
her ideas and construction technologies
The work executed and emanating from Zaha Hadid’s office is at the forefront of architectural design and technological innovation. Advancements in digital modeling, new construction technologies, and computer controlled manufacture of materials and shapes, has transformed the building industry and enabled Hadid’s architecture. Her architecture has always pushed the limits, while acknowledging and extending the accomplishments of earlier visionaries such as Kazimir Malevich, Pier Luigi Nervi or Oscar Niemeyer. She has worked with exceptional and pioneering engineers who have contributed towards advancements in the building industry, and have designed projects in steel and concrete which would have been considered impossible a generation ago. Hadid’s ideas were not beyond time, but were the result of a visionary, optimistic view of the future. Recently, the Zaha Hadid office established a research and development unit within the firm, focused specifically on advancing the ability of design and technique to transform architecture. Famously, when Zaha encountered an engineer who said something was not possible, she found a new engineer who made it possible.
her impressive aspects
I feel that Zaha Hadid’s undeterred determination and courage to realize her visions in the face of innumerable obstacles, over the course of her career, is remarkable and inspirational. Creatively, her architecture and design works were continuously evolving; exploring new ideas, methods and typologies. Every new design revealed a new possibility.
the legacy she left behind
Zaha Hadid has left an indelible mark on architecture, revealing and releasing the potential of visionary and radical design exploration. Her influence on future architects will be profound, but her designs were her signature. The ZHA design firm will continue and likely thrive, driven by talented individuals she inspired and the spirit she imbued. Zaha Hadid was an immense talent – brilliant and irreplaceable.