Remembering Zaha: Amanda Levete on Hadid’s Revolutionary BMW Building

Chlo̩ Vadot Chlo̩ Vadot

In a video series realized in collaboration with Architizer, Dezeen sat down with Amanda Levete to discuss her “all-time favorite building” by the late architect Zaha Hadid: the BMW Building. To Levete, the BMW Building is most representative of “Zaha’s strong preoccupation and obsession with the scale of large infrastructure projects.”

The building, located in Leipzig, Germany, is a reinterpretation of the traditional office. Zaha Hadid Architects designed a space to encourage communication and engagement between the departments of the BMW company, transcending the divisions that conventionally divide white- and blue-collar workers in similar businesses.

“Zaha’s work has laid bare to a wide public the importance of celebrating architecture, of doing something that goes beyond the pragmatic,” explains Levete.

The building’s forms are an exemplar of speed and dynamism. While both physical phenomena were continuously studied by Zaha Hadid through her paintings, and many of her built works, the BMW Building integrates those elements wholeheartedly, constructing the infrastructure for efficient manufacturing, design and management.

Model photo © Zaha Hadid Architects

“She took a very complex brief — and I think Zaha was at her best when she had a very complex program to deal with — and totally turned it on its head,” says Levete. “Historically, I think it is very interesting because it follows the celebration of speed and dynamism from the 1920s Fiat factory.”

Whereas the racetrack on the Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, Italy, sat atop the building’s roof, Zaha places the focal point inside of the BMW Building, leading the assembly line through the building. With that organization, the manual workers are integrated in the same space as designers and directors of the company.

Photo © Hélène Binet

“The movement of the assembly line broke down hierarchies,” continues Levete. “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.”

Photo © Roland Halbe

“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,” says Levete. “There’s a kind of coherence to that language in the BMW Building.”

Amanda Levete is the founder and principal of AL_A, a London-based studio recently commissioned to design the mosque for Abu Dhabi’s World Trade Center and remodel Paris’ Galeries Lafayette department store.

Dezeen and Architizer have also created videos to commemorate Zaha’s work with Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Bjarke Ingels. Stay tuned for upcoming interviews with Patrik Schumacher and Eva Jiricna.

Cover photo © Werner Huthmacher; all photos courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

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