This By designing such a modern and fluent

This centre was built in Baku, Azerbaijan, The Republic of
Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has quite heavily invested in modernising and developing
Baku’s architecture and infrastructure, due to the mark that was left on it
from the time it was part of the Soviet Union. ZHA was given the task to create
this Centre which would later become the primary building for the nation’s cultural
program. By designing such a modern and fluent building in the heart of
monumental Soviet architecture, allows Baku to express the optimism that
they’re trying to bring forth for their nation as part of the Azeri culture. I
believe this shows ZHA’s global aspect as whole, it depicts how they can work
in multiple landscapes and many different regions of the world and one
particular time without losing their aspect on quality, or their design
philosophy which “is geared to a new time
of dynamism, complexity and to a contemporary networked society”.

The site is 111,292m2 whereas the building
itself, is 57,519m2, giving an idea of just how large it actually
is. The continuous skin of the building was completed through advanced
computing as it allowed the continuous control and communication of said
complexities. The Centre consists of 2 main collaborating systems, which are: a concrete structure combined with a space
frame system. In order to achieve a large-scale column-free spaces that allow
the visitor to experience the fluidity of the interior, vertical structural
elements are absorbed by the envelope and curtain wall system.  Due to the nature of the surface geometry,
unconventional structure solutions where used, and thus, the introduction of ‘boot columns’ helped to attain this
‘inverse peel’ of the surface from the ground to the West of the building.
Furthermore, the ‘dove-tail’ tapering
of the

-cantilever beams that support the building envelope to the
East of the site. This establishes ZHA’s design research group’s
efficiency, in addition, it depicts their capability on how they can work
together as a team and how the complexity and uniqueness of each of their
designs and shapes are created.

This frame allowed the construction of a free-form structure
as well as reducing time throughout the construction process, while the
substructure of the building was developed to assimilate a flexible correlation
amongst the rigid grid of the frame and the free- -form exterior cladding
seams. The ideal cladding materials that were chosen for this specific frame
were GFRC and GFRP (Glass Fibre Reinforced Concrete and Glass Fibre Reinforced
Polyester) as they responded the different functional demands related to the
varying situations, moreover, it enabled the powerful plasticity of the
building’s design. The seams provide a realistic solution to the construction
issues formed such as the assembly, transportation, handling and manufacturing,
in addition, they answer the technical constraints, such as external loads,
seismic activity, wind loading, temperature change and accommodating movement
due to deflection. Again, this depicts how CODE can be used research into their
projects and create complex shapes and buildings that have phenomenal fluid
designs with enough structural integrity to support itself as well. It “expresses their ability bring together three
components into one connective institution; it’s a library, convention centre
and a museum, merged into one, so the landscape literally crawls up the edge of
the building – it’s very exhilarating”.

GFRC is quite a versatile material; ‘traditional spray-up GFRC is a low water-cement ratio mix, most decorative
GFRC products, other than

artificial
rocks, are made with a two-layer process with a very thin face coat and a
thicker backing layer.’. GFRC is also very lightweight, allowing
concrete to be cast at thinner sections, showing a decrease in its mass by upto
75%. Along with its light weight, it also has a high strength, boasting a 4000
psi flexural strength. Furthermore, since GFRC is reinforced internally, there
is no need for any other forms of reinforcement. However, this is where the differentiation
of what product is used can take its toll. Sprayed GFRC has no need for
vibration in respect to its consolidation, although, poured GFRC would need the
help of vibration or rollers to achieve consolidation, in addition, poured GFRC
does not need the use of expensive equipment, whereas sprayed GFRC equipment
can cost up to $10,000.

GFRP is very similar to GFRC in which it has a high
strength to weight ratio, with a weight of roughly 2-4 lbs per sq ft. This
allows a speedy installation, less structural framing and even lower shipping
costs. GFRP is also resistant to salt water, most chemicals, and weathering,
depicting how it can be used on the roof of buildings as well as for structural
members. This can include: Domes, fountains, columns, panels, roofs and more. Furthermore,
they can give a very seamless construction by forming one water-tight piece by
putting two pieces together with resign. This material is very low maintenance,
portraying now loss of its laminate properties after 30 years.

The design for the centre established a very fluid and constant
interconnection with its surrounding plaza and building’s interior. In general,
the plaza was accessible to everyone, general public and officials alike as a
part of Baku’s urban architecture. It rose and engulfed an interior space,
which also welcomed people from everywhere. As a result, it depicted a succession
of event spaces

-which were committed to the celebration of contemporary
and traditional Azeri culture. The plaza surface was reshaped and recast
through elaborate formations such as folds and undulations to transform it into
an architectural landscape in which it executes a variety of functions:
welcoming and directing visitors through many different levels of the interior.

The intention of this design was to relate to the
historical architecture that had once dominated this landscape. This would not
be done through impersonation of their design or even limiting adherence to iconography
of the past, yet preferably to interpret a securely simultaneous interpretation,
mirroring more of a subtle understanding. The historical Islamic architecture boasted
‘rows and grids of columns, as if trees
in a forest’ in addition, this contemporary calligraphy as well as its
oriental patterns flowed from the carpets to the walls of the structure, giving
an almost timeless effect.

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