Hadid‘s BMW Central Building, which was completed in 2005, connects three separate production buildings on the German car brand’s manufacturing complex in Leipzig.
The building hosts offices and meeting rooms for the company’s design, management and administrative staff, but also features a large elevated conveyor that moves hundreds of cars through the building every day from one production shed to another.
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“Zaha’s work has laid bare to a wide public the importance of celebrating architecture, of doing something that goes beyond the pragmatic.”
Levete compares the building to the 1920s Fiat Lingotto Factory by Italian architect Giacomo Mattè-Trucco, which featured a test track on the roof.
“Historically, I think it is very interesting because it follows the celebration of speed and dynamism from the 1920s Fiat factory,” she explains.
“In a sense, she put the racetrack inside the building, but it was the racetrack of assembly and the racetrack of making.”
The integration of the production line with management and administrative facilities broke down barriers between blue- and white-collar workers, Levete believes.
“She took a very complex brief – and I think Zaha was at her best when she had a very complex programme to deal with – and totally turned it on its head,” she says.
“The movement of the assembly line broke down hierarchies. It totally blurred the boundary between making, management and designing. It was a very radical piece of design but it was also a very radical piece of thinking.”
Levete believes that the BMW Central Building is a prime example of how Hadid’s distinctive architectural language was often informed by a higher concept.
“I think what is so important about her work is that the conceptual thinking was revealed in a very new language, which she developed over decades,” she says. “There’s a kind of coherence to that language in the BMW building.”
Hadid died unexpectedly in March following a heart attack. Levete and a host of other leading architects including Bjarke Ingels, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster and Daniel Libeskind paid tribute to her in our memorial video, which was screened at the Architizer A+ Awards in New York.
We’ll be publishing more movies from the video interviews we conducted over the coming weeks. You can watch them as we publish them on our YouTube playlist:
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