In the center of Dubai, a few meters from the Burj Khalifa – the tallest skyscraper in the world – Opus, the new posthumous building of Zaha Hadid, is a hollow icon, a property that makes the void its main contribution. Its authors speak of a balance between opposites: empty-full, opaque-transparent and even the basic interior-exterior. However, when the late Anglo-Iraqi architect presented the model in 2007, she did so using other terms. She spoke of two towers joined at their base and at their top to form a cube. The hole is the hole where the towers are not joined. Hadid spoke of erosion – the curves of the hole that break the rigidity of a cube – and pragmatism – the separation of uses and the security control between the two towers connected by four floors at the base and by three at the height (at 71 meters ground)-. Unraveling the mystery of the central void, Hadid was able to find that the irrational – a leaky building – could be seen as bold.
All in all, once the hole is seen and its functional use understood —as a kind of patio— it is clear that, beyond the formal impact, the building’s greatest surprise is, indeed, the contrast: the cube’s perimeter precision collides with the curves drawn by the hole. This dialogue of opposites is underlined by the curtain wall that surrounds both: emptiness and building and that, perhaps, comes to distract from a previous and more basic question: the opportunity to build in the desert with a curtain wall. It is true that the double glass façade of the building seeks to reduce the scourge of the sun with a certain isolation and even with a layer of solar protection and with the mirror effect that contributed so much to the diffusion of a type of corporate architecture in American cities. But it is also true that the fact of having to protect the material itself so much from the sun could have led them to think that the curtain wall is not the best solution for the façade of the building – that is, it works by showing the face, but fails when it comes to protect its users. It is therefore clear what the goal of the architects was: to raise an eye-catching – iconic – building above a logical building from an energy point of view. That also does not attend to cultural logic – the genius loci— it is, fundamentally, an economic decision: the construction of Dubai has never tried to build a capital in the desert, but rather a rich city, supposedly cosmopolitan in appearance, despite the desert.
For Christos Passas, the lead architect of the project, the goal of the hole and the reflections of the curtain wall is the same: to dissolve the volume of the building, to turn it into mist. And it is true that during the day that curved curtain wall – formed by a sandwich of two glasses – reflects the sky. At nightfall, the icon turns around: an LED installation illuminates and underlines the hole and it is the cube that disappears. Day and night, the building is certainly spectacular.
In addition to the architecture, Hadid also signed the interior design of the hotel. Its unique designs furnish the rooms of the premises. There are more curves: each of the beds and bathtubs in the 74 rooms and 19 suites is a Hadid design. The promoter of the surprising building is Spanish: the Meliá hotel group that has been betting on the spectacle of the most famous architects for years. Of course, the hotel does not have a breakfast buffet so as not to waste food and, as happens in almost all Meliá hotels, guests receive stainless steel bottles when they enter to fill them from the sources and thus avoid the use of plastic. The world we live in gives a lot to think about.
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