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Neutral - The Test Compilation

Neutral, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)

A frozen still frame with a startling aesthetic.


The test compilation contains the Neutral’s initial animation pitch for Zaha Hadid Architects, featuring the Holloway Road Bridge (University of North London), the Vitra Fire Station and an abstract segment in which Zaha Hadid’s paintings were turned into a 3D animation. This is the first installment of the collaboration between Neutral and ZHA, a minute-and-a-half long animation fueled by music and rhythm, that sett the tone for the following ones. It established the ‘Neutral approach’: visualizing the conceptual approach with abstract animations, before introducing the articulated architectural design.

The Holloway Road Bridge - the first-ever project of ZHA in the UK for the University of North London - sees two flows moving towards each other create a shape and direction which the structure follows. The sequence is also an early example of the nascent particle animation which precluded any parametrically defined forms.
An article appeared in 1999 on The Architects' Journal said: “The architect sees the bridge as 'a glowing information highway', with the internal corridor across the road acting as 'a digital newspaper for students with posters, bulletins, and audio display'. The external facade will act as an 'urban newspaper' carrying moving images and projection. There will be 'sky lobbies' at the landing points, incorporating cafes, libraries, and seminar rooms”.

The video for the Vitra Fire Station - conceived as an "endnote" for the Vitra Campus, it was one of Zaha's first realized projects in Weil am Rhein on the Swiss-German border.

As Tapio Snellman of Neutral stated: "the architectural concepts captured a dynamic movement and created a 'frozen still frame' with a startling aesthetic." Therefore "the sequence traces that movement and visualizes how the main elements of the building follow trajectories, fall into place and form the composition of the fire station."

The Vitra Fire Station was designed informed by the project for the Vitra Factory - a building conceived as the key element within a linear landscaped zone, the artificial extension of linear patterns in adjacent fields and vineyards – designed as a connecting unit rather than an isolated object; defining rather than occupying space.

The overall video gives us the sense of this dynamic movement and of startling aesthetic the projects are infused with, but only offers us glimpses of their overall structures, so, as we did for the London project, it might be useful to retrieve Zaha Hadid Architects' description of the fire station:

"The new fire station – long, linear, narrow – emerges as a layered series of tilted and breaking walls, between which program elements are contained within spaces visible only from a perpendicular viewpoint. On passing, brilliant red fire vehicles are glimpsed, their lines of movement inscribed in surrounding asphalt – a visual grammar also used to inscribe the ritualized exercises completed by fire teams. This building is 'movement frozen' – a vivid, lucid expression of the tensions necessary to remain 'alert', to explode into action as required. Walls appear to slide one across the other, main sliding doors form a 'moving' wall."

It is clear how the concept of the buildings and the video is the same: the swiftness, the rhythm to which the structure moves and dances and it is revealed in the video collimate with how the project itself should be experienced - thus, the video gives us, in advance on the real thing, the true feeling, and vibe of its design. The abstract segment, in this sense, is a perfect example of such an approach: it does not present a "real" project, but still gives us the exact feeling of a ZHA project, meaning it captures and, also, form our perception of the signature style of the studio.

(Story by Sara Marzullo, The Architecture Player)

Authors icon Credits

Design: Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher
Mentioned projects: Holloway Road Bridge (1999), Vitra Fire Station (1990-1993)
Project location: London, United Kingdom, Weil am Rhein, Germany

United Kingdom 1999
Duration: 1'07"