How does Star Architecture effect an image of a city and society from old to new

Cities have long used architecture to promote their values and prove status. It can also be used to influence an entire country’s identity, weather it were to forget the past or to build a new further. Star Architecture can come with problems, as through gentrifying, it can push out local inhabitants and become an elitist scruture. Both Baku and Hamburg have used architecture to forge a new identity for their country. With Hadid’s Cultural centre, she proves that Azerbaijan is leaving its soviet past behind, in the same way that Hamburg wanted to leave theirs.

Heydar Aliyey, Cultural Center is a new centre built in Azerbaijan. It was designed by Zaha Hadid (1950). She has created a new landmark for the country. It has been described by the BBC as ‘the ultimate Zaha experience’ (Youtube, 2018). The building was completed in 2012 and is now open to the public and show casing the best of Azerbaijan. As a library, convention centre and museum, these three components work holistically to make up a new cultural centre. As well as having spaces for concerns and exhibitions, the building is truly a celebration of engineering, art and the local culture. This building brings Azerbaijan to the world stage. Quoted from their website ‘The building of the Heydar Aliyev Center is an embodiment of the development of the present-day Azerbaijan and its attachment both to the past and to the future.’ (Heydaraliyev Center, 2018)


The body of the building is full of curves. Organic subtle shapes that bends and stretch in to a beautiful architectural form. The uninterrupted curves of the white facade bounces sun light off and it seems to create an energy even before entering. The glass, which is set back from the facade creates dark cave like spaces that is inviting to visitors. The vacuum formed exterior has a fluid quality that creates a calming effect, Zaha describes her building as if it was a landscape (Youtube, 2018). Although its organic nature, it still has a sense of strength and purpose. Very much owning its own space. The curves that shape the building has a long history in Azerbaijan. The shapes are reminiscent of the ancient Aribic calligraphy ((Youtube, 2018). This visual language of uninterrupted curves and fluid marks are imperative to the islamic architecture. By looking at Azerbaijan’s Islamic cultural past, Hadid has made the building more approachable for the locals. There is a familiarity and a sense of belonging. It is creating the new without forgetting the past. The interior maintains the same qualities as the outside, the lay out of the centre has large spaces that encourages appreciation of the engineering and architecture.

It can not go un-noticed that Zaha Hadid is a woman too. To have a female architect to create such a landmark can only show that the Azerbaijan republic is supportive of woman in the work place. In fact, dew to the Center, Hadid was the first women to win the Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award 2014 (Design week, (2018).

Azerbaijan is transforming, once a soviet state, it is now a republic. Leaving the Soviet Union in 1991, it now has independence and since the discovery of oil, the country economy is growing. It now has a chance to promote its own independent values. The tool the city is using to demonstrate its new charter is largely architecture. It is an Industry led gentrification and branding. Baku’s architecture is mixed with Russian Neo classicism and soviet architecture left over from the soviet era but now they are forging a new way with a minimalist style. With the new buildings popping up, it shows an ‘optimism of a nation looking to the future.’ (wikiarquitectura). Baku is using the Heydar Aliyey Cultural Centre to show the city’s new identity. As well as demonstrating outwards to the rest of the world these new set of Azerbaijani values, its also demonstrates inwards to its own citizens, what they hold valuable to the nation. The Cultural Centre shows Baku’s ‘sensual side’ (BBC) and a side of of the city that values culture.  The centre is named after Heydar Aliyey who was the president of Azerbaijan Republic (1993 – 2003). This illustrates a supports of the new national identity of the Azerbaijan Republic

The enormous budget for the building really shows how serious the city and country was to show its support of the national culture. This kind of support will have echoes across the whole of their society. These ideals will filter down to small communities, schools and families, demonstrating that there is a serious importance and value to the arts.

Although there are many positives to creating a piece of star architecture there are always problems. According to Numbeo (Numbeo, 2018)and Wageindicator (Check in price, 2017)the average salary in Baku (which is the capital of Azerbaijan and therefore the most prosperous), is about $650 USD per month, that equals about $30 a day. Entry to the Centre is almost $9 USD, therefore a ticket of $9 does not sound like it would be easily accessible for everyone, especially people on a less than average salary. This potentially will make the centre elitist, where only the rich can afford to be indulged with Azerbaijan’s art, music, theatre and culture. The concerts too are expensive, ranging up to $60USD. Although these prices imply that the centre can only be enjoyed by the few, the Centre is in the middle of town and therefore can be seen by everyone. There are ways in which to enjoy it with out spending money. The spaces that surround it are free and can be enjoyed by all. The landscape surround it has been designed so the centre is at the top of a small slop, allowing the the subway entrance to be an excellent viewing gallery. The subways lines were changed as so to include a stop just of the centre (Wikiarquitectura, (2018), making it easier to get to it. This will also boost the economy in the immediate surroundings as it will bring tourism.

The main contractor, DIA Holding, had a worrying accusation about how the building was was constructed. Allocations from series of groups including Freedom House and Human Rights Watch, about human rights and forced evictions. As the city is going under a huge rejuvenation, buildings are been torn down. ‘The government has pursued a programme of illegal expropriation and forced eviction across the city, without proper compensation of its residents,’ said Giorgi Giorgia of HRW (Humans Right Watch, (2018). Approximately 250 homes where cleared to make way for the centre’s site. With many residents claiming that the ‘police have resorted to aggressive methods to quell such disturbances’ (The Guardian, (2018)and push them out of their houses. This kind of gentrification pushes out the poorest of communities and only leaves room for the rich. It is not as easy as right or wrong as rejuvenation can bring money to a city. If the city was not to be regenerated it can run the risk of having a stagnant economy. Evidently, the centre brings in tourist, which will directly effect the national economy as well as the Baku and the immediate area around the Culture centre. This can lead to better education, better housing and more job opportunities. The Centre its self would have created hundreds of jobs, not just to run it but also in its construction. In the long run this can bring money to the poorer parts. However for this theory to work, there has to be confidence in the Government.

Unlike Baku, Hamburg has a very strong history of culture and especially music. This is clear from Hamburghs State Opera House, the first public opera house to open in Germany in 1678; then named Stadt-Theater and now Hamburgische Staatsoper/ Hamburg State Opera. This Opera house was renamed in 1934. It has had great performances and musicians, including Handel being employed as a violinist in 1721 (Staatsoper Hamburd, (2018). The opera house has stood in the same place for 350 years. However in 1943 it was bombed in World War 2 but quickly rebuilt. The long history of music in Hamburg is evident and celebrated with this building.

Although the building is now dated and not as impressive as it once was in 1955, it is still a form of star architecture. It is still viewed as a great feature in Hamburg. Its glass front is inviting, allowing anyone outside to feel part of the building. At night it becomes a viewing box for the city. It is open and welcoming. Its facade is full of lines both curved and straight. Upward of 6 stores, in 1955 with would have been an impressive building.

After the bombing in 1943 it was rebuilt in 1955 by Gerhard Weber (Staatsoper Hamburd, (2018) . This must have been a huge task to undertake. The country had gone through the huge trauma of WW2 and it was a time to look to the future and rebuild a new nation existence. The national identity had changed and therefore the Opera House’s new ethos was to look to the future. This forward thinking was reflected in their choices such as focusing on emerging composers. With this forward thinking, they were even the first place to broadcast on colour television in 1967. With their name Hamburg State opera house, it implies that the values of the opera house are the same values as the state and country as a whole.

The opera house soon made to possible for everyone to enjoy an art form that once was impossible for the average person to listen to. Music is a very inclusive art form. It does not need a language or an education to delight in. In the past, as there was no technology to record music, music there fore was only for the people who could afford to listen to it live at the theatre. This elitist nature of music is often echoed in today’s society. Tickets for ballets and operas can be very expensive and therefore not available to the available salary earner. However the Hamburg State Opera House offers tickets from as little as €4 making it affordable of everyone (the price of tickets can then climb to €160!) (Staatsoper Hamburd, (2018). Accessibility to the concert hall is good with wheel chair access and discount tickets for wheel chair users. This shows a level of consciences to ensure everyone is able to enjoy the culture and music. The Opera House is also in the centre of the city with easy transport links

Baku and Hamburg are similar in the sense that by building a culture centre they were trying to release them selves from their past. With Azerbaijan it was its soviet ear and for Hamburg it was World War II.  By creating such an internationally recognise statement through architecture, the values demonstrated will not just be reflected international but also with in their own countries. These values could then be adopted by their citizens and communities and eventually be engrained in the nation idenity. However rejuvenation of cities and values can come with their down falls. By creating massive structures such as the Cultural centre in Azerbaijan, it can push out the local communicates and create an elitist feeling. This gentrification can also filter down into the national psyche with can develop into a wealth and class divide. Hamburg State Opera House thought about this and has made their ticket prices assemble to everyone, this could only lead to a better more equal society.


Check in price, (2017), Average and Minimum Salary in Baku, Azerbaijan,

Design week, (2018), Zaha Hadid building is ‘best design of the year’,

Hamburg Travel, (2017), Attractions,

Heydaraliyev Center, (2018),HAQQIMIZDA,

Humans Right Watch, (2018), Azerbaijan: Halt Illegal House Demolitions, Forced Evictions,

Numbeo, (2018), Cost of Living in Baku,

Staatsoper Hamburd, (2018), History,

The Guardian, (2018),  Azerbaijan Human Rights,

The Guardian, (2018), Zaha Hadid Architecture,

Youtube, (2018), BBC: Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center – Baku, Azerbaijan by Zaha Hadid. Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre.,

Wikiarquitectura, (2018), Baku Cultural Centre,

Russia and Iran in the Great Game: Travelogues and Orientalism, Volume 8 of Routledge Studies in Middle Eastern History, Elena Andreeva, Publisher

Routledge, 2010

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