An Architectural Comparison of the Heydar Aliyev Center and the Guggenheim Museum

Past, Present, Future

Zaha Hadid once said, “ As an architect, you design for the present while being aware of the past, for a future that is unknown.” This philosophy is evident in the Heydar Aliyev Center that she designed in The Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright seems to have been built with the same philosophy. Built fifty years apart, the buildings and designers have astounding similarities; however, some of the designers’ philosophies on context highlight the buildings’ differences.

Nature-inspired both designers. Wright was so drawn to nature that he “made no secret of his disenchantment” with the overbuilt and overpopulated New York City (Nicanor, 2017). Acquiring a plot near Central Park appeased Wright because his design could be intimate with nature. He continues to show his biophilia with the interior of the Guggenheim: “A large central void encircled by…descending ramp,” with a rotund skylight, mimics the look of a nautilus shell. As visually appealing as the Guggenheim is, the design appears to lack a connection to its site, unlike the Heydar Aliyev Center.

Hadid takes into account the center’s close relation to the Caspian Sea. The exterior and parts of the interiors replicate a folding wave. Furthermore, Hadid connects the building to its plot. Parts of the exterior mimic the slopes of the land it sits on. Hadid also embraces the drastic contrast of the land that splits the site by designing the building to precisely cascade down the landscapes terraces (“Heydar Aliyev Center”, 2003). Wright incorporates nature into his building, while Hadid incorporates her building into nature.

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These designers are also influenced by history. The exterior of Wright’s building shows this, the Guggenheim is an upside-down ziggurat. A ziggurat was a Mesopotamian temple, which is a rounded pyramid. Wright was thus inspired by history from another land, while Hadid was inspired by the history of her building’s home; Azerbaijan. The fluidity of the building is inspired by Islamic culture. Many Islamic designs are fluid by way of arches and domes; the Heydar Center is fluid by every means. Hadid also based the fluid design on “calligraphy and patterns” that mark Mosques (Platt, 2014). Both Hadid and Wright develop a contemporary way to depict the past.

Wright draws on nature and history to create amazing designs. Hadid takes the philosophies of looking to nature and the past one step further by ensuring the land she is working with is connected to her designs. Both designers were innovative for their time. Their work looked to the past, to create a work for the present, which allows for the buildings to transcend in the future. From studying their buildings I am now equipped to look critically at how building signs are influenced by the past and nature. My goal is to create a timelesdesignsgn, like Write and Hadid. By incorporating their philosophies on nature and history, I will create a design that looks toward the future.

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An Architectural Comparison of the Heydar Aliyev Center and the Guggenheim Museum. (2022, Jun 18). Retrieved from

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