It's worth reading:
The cult of obscurity that surrounded Hadid hardly distinguished her from her colleagues in the architectural avant-garde—or, for that matter, in the artistic or literary ones. For decades, architects like Hadid and their champions in the academy have discussed architecture in writing where jargon operates as a kind of code, keeping amateurs confused and thus, for the most part, comfortably out of the way.
But Hadid took that disdain a step further: She walled off her work visually, too. Nearly every one of her early designs made an enemy of aesthetic clarity and legibility, and seemed to reject the idea that non-architects should be able to look at architectural plan, elevation, or rendering and actually be able to imagine what the building is going to look like in the real world. Many of her renderings seemed to be composed from the perspective of a helicopter dipping into a crazy sideways tailspin.
Just when we thought we had Hadid pegged, though, her first American building opened its doors last spring. The Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art sits on a compact corner site in downtown Cincinnati. It's an ambitious design: The galleries are contained within blocks of space that jut out from the facade like wayward drawers on a piece of furniture, giving the building the look of a huge, three-dimensional painting by Braque or Malevich. The floor of the entry hall curls dramatically, like a magic carpet, as it nears the back wall. But the museum is also calm and surprisingly straightforward, and it treats the average museum-goer with a remarkable generosity of spirit. On the whole it's welcoming, not exclusive or proudly alienating.
It's possible that the building will prove to be an aberration for Hadid. For a true measure of her place in architectural history, we'll have to wait until her major projects are built, particularly a new museum in Rome and a BMW factory in Leipzig, Germany, both of which are now under construction.
But rather than suggest that Hadid has softened over the years, the Cincinnati museum offers a sign that perhaps she has been a sophisticated, accessible architect all along—that behind her aggressive renderings lay buildings that are better, if less radical, than the hype suggested. In other words, Hadid may be right that the Pritzker will push her into the mainstream. But if it does, the trip will be a bit shorter than she's ever been willing to admit.