Join us on 17th December at 14:00 GMT for a lively discussion with internationally practicing, award winning architect, Saffet Kaya Bekiroglu, and a panel of experts including Madeleine Kessler based in London, and Kohelika Kohli and Sunita Kohli based in New Delhi.
Some seven years after it first opened, Zaha Hadid’s monumental, award winning Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center in Baku, Azerbaijan provides a unique symbol of optimism and hope for the future of a region that is still finding its way since gaining its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
“This was an incredibly ambitious project and for me,” Hadid said, “it was always my dream to design and build the theoretical project. “The Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku is the closest thing to achieving that.” Saffet Kaya Bekiroglu, an associate at Zaha Hadid Architects who led the project and its design, commented that in this region, which is Eurasia, the Caucasus, contemporary architecture on this kind of scale had not been done. “If you look at the closest structures on that scale, it’s the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in Agra.” “When you look at Soviet era architecture in Azerbaijan, it is more monumental internalised authoritarian buildings. “Thus, we wanted to use this building as an opportunity to completely depart from that.” They wanted to have something unique, something which is looking at the future, somehow showing their soft, romantic side but at the same time their optimistic side,” said Bekiroglu. “But in a region where this had not been done, it was an extremely interesting journey to be able to bring the vision and knowhow — and in many ways this building helped the transformation of their society into a more forward looking one.”
Saffet Kaya Bekiroglu, (M. Arch [Hons], B. Arch, ARB, RIBA) is an internationally practicing architect, a former colleague of the renown British-Iraqi architect, Zaha Hadid, where he was the project designer and architect of international designs on a variety of scales including several competition-winning projects, including the acclaimed London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games and the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan. He established his own practice, Kaya Design, in 2017 with locations in London, Istanbul and Cyprus. As a Turkish Cypriot, Kaya Bekiroglu is uniquely placed to discuss the blossoming of contemporary architecture in the Caucasus Region and specifically the design for the ground breaking Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku which was completed in 2013. Before joining Zaha Hadid Architects, Saffet worked at Frank O. Gehry & Associates in Los Angeles, CA for five years where he was involved in the design and development of high profile, large-scale projects, including the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Cambridge, MA and the Lake Front Music Pavilion in Chicago’s Millennium Park. He received his BA of Architecture from Istanbul Technical University and his Masters of Architecture with Honours from UCLA.
Madeleine Kessler (M, Eng [Hons], B. Arch, ARB, RIBA) trained as an architect and engineer and is an Associate Architect at Haptic Architects, where she is part of the research collective Londonon. She sits on the National Infrastructure Commission’s Design Group, and has taught and lectured at universities including the Architectural Association, Oxford Brookes University, the University of Sheffield and the University of London. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Oslo Architecture Triennale. Madeleine was named a 2019 RIBAJ Rising Star. In 2012, she received a travel fellowship to visit and research a portion of the Silk Road and has been working on the cultural capacity of infrastructure ever since. The British Council chose Madeleine Kessler and her business partner Manijeh Verghese to represent the UK as Co-Curators of the British Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2020, postponed to 2022.
Kohelika Kohli is CEO and Creative Director of K2India, a practicing architect based in New Delhi where she designs and restores residential and public buildings throughout India. She graduated from the Pratt Institute of Design in New York in 2004. During her second year at Pratt, she interned in England with Sir Norman Foster and worked on projects in London and in the USA, notably on the Foster Extension to the Boston Fine Arts Museum, originally designed by IM Pei. Subsequently she worked for the renown architectural and design firm, Oliver Cope Architects. She serves as a Trustee of the Museum of Women in the Arts, India.
Sunita Kohli is India’s foremost authority on the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens, and the President of K2India. She is a research-based interior designer, a reputed leader in historical interior architectural and architectural restoration, and since 1971, a manufacturer of fine contemporary and classical furniture. Sunita Kohli has worked throughout Asia and the Middle East on large scale public projects and private residences. She has the distinction of being the first interior designer to be conferred the Padma Shri in 1992; the first Indian designer/architect to be invited to give an illustrated lecture at the prestigious National Building Museum in Washington DC in 2003; and the first woman to be appointed, in 2014, as the Chairperson of the School of Planning and Architecture in Bhopal, a National Institute of Excellence.