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Would you say there is a specific relation to Singapore or Asia in this architecture?

To a certain extent yes. You realize that in Asia certain analogical thinking makes sense to people; it is very much part of Asian cultures. Whereas we have used it more as a technique to articulate the relationship between the museum and installation, to have that embeddedness. We sink into the museum, and draw certain fold lines, flaw lines between and to the entrances. We are thinking much more in terms of analogy, for example smooth transitions between territories and zones, and smooth transitions between levels you can find in the landscape, are interesting to express in the architecture of the installation. The installation speaks to the discourse of modern architecture, and has spiritual as well as certain cultural associations with Asian culture that can address the local situations. We tried to interpret some kind of aspect of Asian culture - looking at possible features within the local architecture to find a kind of abstract translation. If you look at the project, you see certain characters that you can associate with local features. But that is not the only reading, it is not instant and it’s not very blatant, it is actually quite subtle.

Design fort the atrium of the Singapore Art Museum,
Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects, London

You seem to enjoy calling into question the notion of "inside" and "outside" in museums. Thoughts?

I see these centres as forums for the exchange of ideas and gathering places for people of all cultures and ages – presenting an ever-changing menu of visual and performing art that feeds the cultural vitality of the city. I believe architecture can be a catalyst for instigating and influencing the process of making as well as viewing art, and instigating a renewed sense of possibility. It is therefore very important to us that the museums are open in their functionality. Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim-Museum in Manhattan had an incredible influence on me. That building creates a path that connects the outside street into the inside of the museum. Circulation in museums is very critical – not just the ability to walk through the space but the ease with which you can view the art. The story of the museum has changed a great deal – it's no longer just an awful lot of rooms which connect sequentially as in a palace. It's become someplace where you can experiment with the idea of galleries, with light and movement, with the idea of catering for many people. This has been really exciting. At the Ordrupgaard Museum Extension that we built in Copenhagen the interior landscape presents the visitor with a layered experience, where the museum’s space relates to the exterior gardens. Camouflage and transparency are resources we have used that compliment this topographical shift. The museum’s new envelope has a profound relationship with the landscape around it.

Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Photo Werner Huthmacher
Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects, London

And the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg appears as a mysterious object, giving rise to curiosity and discovery. The visitor is faced with a degree of complexity and strangeness. That complexity is ruled, however, by a very specific system of structural organization, based on the multiple threads of pedestrian traffic through the site. These threads are then pulled through the site, both on an artificial ground landscape and also inside and through the building, effectively composing an interface of circulation between those inside and outside the science centre.

How do you expect this architecture will effect the motion of the visitor through the museum, and thereby their appreciation of the art contained therein?

We build the complexity of all our projects in relationship to the inherent complexity of the program, but then clarify the diagram as much as possible to be a logical configuration. I think the most interesting part for me, from the early period till this day, has always been the organization – this allows for the creation of a new diagram. This programming deals with how you respond to the program and to the museum and the collection at the same time. There is a notion of design there. All the forces from all elements operate at the same time, so that the view of the art is inherently affected by the constructed nature of the visitors’ path through the museum, but equally, the experience of the path shifts according to what the viewer is seeing at any given moment.

Design fort the atrium of the Singapore Art Museum,
Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects, London

The forms used to define the SAM spaces seem to skate along the border between sculpture and architecture. Where would you place them, if at all?

The satisfying thing about doing an exhibition design such as that for the Deutsche Bank Collection is that the production process between idea and result is so much quicker and less complicated than that for architecture. The practice has an interesting relationship with technical innovations. The 3D modelling, thermoforming and milling of solid surfaces used in the development and implementation of these temporary exhibition structures has served a definite purpose during our design processes, facilitating the application of complex double curved surfaces. Our ambitions towards creating fluid, dynamic and therefore complex architectural structures have been aided by technological innovations first adopted in exhibition design.

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