Before Zaha Hadid’s death last year, the “Queen of the Curve” was in conversation with the Serpentine’s director Hans Ulrich Obrist to digitise her artworks. The architect, who’s designs are genetically closer to origami than your standard office block, was never one for boilerplate builds. Throughout her sketches and paintings, the line between building and place blur beyond recognition.
Spanning graphite scrawls in the margins of notebooks to the abstract gauche paintings which Hadid’s practice would routinely present at design proposals, Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings, on now at the Serpentine, takes the late architect’s vision one step further by taking you on a virtual reality tour of the exhibition – from within the exhibition itself.
Situated in the Serpentine’s Sackler Gallery, designed by Hadid in 2013, her architectural practice’s in-house VR team, The Zaha Hadid Virtual Reality Group, have partnered with Google Arts & Culture to recreate four of the exhibition’s landmark paintings in order for us to roam around inside them.
Next to the exhibition’s exit, gallery assistants help place sensory deprivation headsets and headphones on dogged audience goers, still standing after the hour long queues. Instructed to focus on the particular paintings you want to enter, the audience gets the chance to fly around mountain peaks, watch the metropolis melt and follow metallic renderings as they move around the canvas.
The illusion of both reality and the freedom to wander around the artwork at your own leisure is limited but it works. In the past, restrictions like space and gravity may have stopped Hadid's designs from being experienced in the 3D flesh and blood but for the moment this is as close as we can get to the reality of her grand designs.
Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings is on until 12 February 2017