Zaha Hadid: her last building design

After four years of construction, the Leeza SOHO tower in Beijing – reputedly the last ever building that Zaha Hadid personally designed – has finally been completed. With record-breaking success.

It is hard to think of any other building that has been awaited with such restless anticipation. The reason is simple: the Leeza SOHO tower in Beijing is one of the last – or maybe even the very last – design to emerge directly from the mind of Zaha Hadid. As was widely reported, Hadid – the grandmaster of modern architecture – died unexpectedly in 2016.

Zaha Hadid’s last record?

And now the day of reckoning has arrived: the gigantic skyscraper in Beijing’s Fengtai business district is finally ready for occupation after four years of construction. And even from the grave, Hadid set what will presumably be her last record in the world (of architecture): the 200-metre-high tower boasts the tallest atrium in the world at present. With a height of 194.15 metres, it overtakes the previous record holder – the legendary Burj Al Arab Hotel in Dubai.

Zaha Hadid's last building design

Zaha Hadid's last building design

Zaha Hadid (1950-2016)

Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid was an Iraqi-born British architect, designer and professor of architecture. In 2004, she was the first woman ever to receive the most prestigious award in architecture: the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

However, this colossal structure is not only striking on account of its sheer size but also because of its design. As the gigantic tower rises, each of its two sides twists at 45 degrees – as if they were dancing with one another. However, this visual effect is merely an add-on: Hadid’s main aim when planning the building was to also provide the upper levels of the tower with a view of Lize Road – one of the main streets in the west of Beijing.

Brilliance born of necessity

The twisting design on both sides of the tower also creates convex openings that allow natural light to flood into the interior spaces. What is particularly exciting about this wonderful idea is that Zaha Hadid developed it essentially out of necessity together with her successor Patrik Schumacher. This is because Leeza SOHO is located directly above an under-construction subway junction in which five tunnels meet.

What end client SOHO China had in mind, however, was to be able to include access to the subway directly from the lower floors of the building. This meant that the star architect and her team were faced with static and design problems. These were eventually solved by splitting the tower into two halves that twist around one another as they move upwards to ultimately form a whole.

Zaha Hadid's last building design

Zaha Hadid's last building design

Clearly satisfied with this solution himself, Patrik Schumacher even took the rare step of releasing a statement: “The new business district is an integral part of Beijing’s multimodal urban plan to keep pace with growth without affecting existing infrastructure networks in the city centre. This 45-storey, 172,800 m² tower responds to demand from small and medium-sized businesses in Beijing for flexible and efficient Grade A office space.”

State-of-the-art technology

After all, this was the very purpose that the building set out to serve from the outset. Which is why the necessary technical details for this were taken on board right from the start. Accordingly, Leeza SOHO has complete 5G coverage (5G refers to the most advanced wireless technology for digital cellular networks). In addition, the building has a spectacular double-glazed glass curtain façade with panes angled to boost internal ventilation. This is designed to provide an agreeable indoor climate at all times in spite of the diverse weather conditions in Beijing.

This 45-storey, 172,800 m² tower responds to demand from small and medium-sized businesses in Beijing for flexible and efficient Grade A office space.

Patrik Schumacher, architect and successor of Zaha Hadid

To improve the environmentally friendliness of the building, the tower has been equipped with heat recovery from exhaust air and high-efficiency pumps, water collection facilities, grey water flushing and an insulating green roof with photovoltaic panels. There are also 2,680 bicycle parking spaces with lockers and shower facilities, alongside charging spaces for electric or hybrid cars to encourage the use of sustainable means of transport.

It would seem that, even when it comes to protecting the environment, the legendary Zaha Hadid was clearly well ahead of her time.

Text: Johannes Stühlinger
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Photos: Hufton+Crow

Atrium of Leeza SOHO tower
The view from the bottom of the Leeza SOHO tower, through the world’s largest atrium and up into the sky: 194.15 breathtaking metres.