Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid has won the London Design Museum's Design of the Year award for her Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan. The architect beat over 70 other designs in the categories of Architecture, Digital, Fashion, Furniture, Graphics, Product and Transport – all of which can be seen at the Design Museum until August 25.
Previous winners in the competition's seven-year history include the London 2012 Olympic Torch, the Plumen lightbulb, and the British government’s GOV.UK website.
Hadid drew deserved, if rather gushing praise from the judges. "An intoxicatingly beautiful building by the most brilliant architect at the height of her office's powers," said Piers Gough of CZWG Architects. "It is as pure and sexy as Marilyn's blown skirt. Without an ounce of awkward argumentative modernism in its bones. It rather reads like a sweet love letter to Zaha's homelands."
Completed in 2012, the The Heydar Aliyev Center center sees Hadid's trademark flowing curves used to great effect. The center comprises an auditorium, gallery hall, and museum, over a total floorspace of 57,506 sq m (619,000 sq ft).
The architect implemented a space frame system in order to achieve the building's sweeping shape and large interior fluid spaces without requiring large structural columns, and its angle-shy form stands out even in a city renowned for its excellent architecture.
Taken on its own merits, it's a splendid building and represents a technical achievement too. However, the victory was greeted with a degree of controversy, partly on account of it being named after the country's former authoritarian leader, Heydar Aliyev.
In addition, as The Guardian reports, there have been widespread allegations of human rights violations at the site, including forced evictions, threats, and expropriations by the Azerbaijani government.