Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku is more a ‘philosophy’ than an architectural marvel
The world-famous building that won the legendary Iraqi-British architect the 'Design Museum's Design of the Year Award 2014', builds a link between Azerbaijan's past and present.
As you drive around Baku, the wave-like shell of Heydar Aliyev Center in the heart of the gleaming Azerbaijani capital is the first thing that greets you with its imposing and innovative architecture. Designed by Zaha Hadid and named after Azerbaijan’s national leader, the Heydar Aliyev Center has become a cultural behemoth in a short period of time. “It is a multipurpose building symbolising modernity,” Emin Mammadov, art curator at Heydar Aliyev Center, tells AD India. “Some think it resembles a wave, while others associate it with the wind. Thus, as everyone’s thoughts are based on their own fantasies, I suppose it is one of the main reasons the architecture and design of the building has found such a huge resonance with millions of people.”
Fusing the past with future
Launched in 2012, the building blends the romance of Azerbaijan’s Soviet past with the buoyant optimism of the future as the oil-rich nation by the Caspian Sea takes giant strides, striving to preserve its history for both future generations and intrepid tourists. Aptly, the centre’s slogan, “To the Future with Values!” sits well on it. “Azerbaijan and its people are neither totally Eastern nor Western, but instead form a rich and unique blend of both cultures. Today, Azerbaijan is a modern and secular country, which incorporates the traditions of many religions, nationalities, and cultures into its open social structure. The Heydar Aliyev Center reflects our forward march,” Mammadov explains, as he plays host to us.
Architecture as philosophy
Viewed from the top, the building resembles a wave-like ascension from the ground towards the sky followed by a gradual descent back to the earth. In a departure from other architecture in the city, the Zaha Hadid creation is a fine example of post-modernism, reflecting the world-renowned late Iraqi-British’s idea of architecture as a tool for philosophy. The wave-like ascension of the Heydar Aliyev Center reflects the eternal cycle of life. Hadid, who passed away in 2016, herself described it as a “dream design.”
Wheels on wheels
The building contains exhibition spaces, a library, a museum and concert venues as well as a theatre. Surveying the centre, one of our first stops was at the museum of Heydar Aliyev—whose official car collection including his official vehicles adorns the entrance—which honours the great leader’s legacy alongside his nation’s history, charting his rise from humble beginnings. The interiors are designed by Italian international designers. Indian art lovers can revel in Anish Kapoor’s ‘Parabolic Twist’ (2013), now a part of the centre’s permanent display. If you are a car buff, don’t miss the classic car collection on the minus third floor that displays a Buick, Cadillac Series 62 Coupe Deville (1955), BMW 502 (1959) and most interestingly, VAZ 21011 Milis (1976), a popular Soviet-era sedan by AvtoVAZ.
A celebration of life
Those interested in modern art can view a new exhibition by Zurab Tsereteli, the legendary Georgian artist. Vibrant and monumental, his paintings and sculptures have a unique ability to capture the human spirit while remaining deceptively simple and at once profound in their subject and message. Opened this May, the artist’s ‘Possible Dimensions’ brings together an array of his art that includes his familiar itineration on the human figure. On until August 25, the show gives a peek into the Tbilisi-born Tsereteli’s highly prolific creative career and includes works influenced by his encounters with fellow artists like Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, and Robert Rauschenberg. The Heydar Aliyev Center has earlier hosted exhibitions of such renowned artists as Andy Warhol, Tony Cragg, Wim Delvoye and Alphonso Mucha, among others.