HEYDAR ALIYEV CENTER
The Heydar Aliyev Center is a 57,500 m2 (619,000 sq ft) building complex in Baku, Azerbaijan designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and noted for its distinctive architecture and flowing, curved style that eschews sharp angles. The center is named after Heydar Aliyev, the first secretary of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1982, and president of Azerbaijan Republic from October 1993 to October 2003.
In 2007, Zaha Hadid was appointed as the design architect of the Center after a competition. The Center houses a conference hall (auditorium), a gallery hall and a museum. The project is intended to play an integral role in the intellectual life of the city. Located close to the city center, the site plays a pivotal role in the redevelopment of Baku.
The Heydar Aliyev Center represents a fluid form which emerges by the folding of the landscape’s natural topography and by the wrapping of individual functions of the Center. All functions of the Center, together with entrances, are represented by folds in a single continuous surface. This fluid form gives an opportunity to connect the various cultural spaces whilst at the same time, providing each element of the Center with its own identity and privacy. As it folds inside, the skin erodes away to become an element of the interior landscape of the Center.
Heydar Aliyev Center had an official soft-opening ceremony on 10 May 2012 held by current president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev.
An internationally recognized architectural work, the building of the Heydar Aliyev Center has become a signature landmark of modern Baku due to its innovative and cutting-edge design. Extending on eight floor levels, the center accommodates a 1000-seat auditorium, temporary exhibition spaces, a conference center, workshops, and a museum.
The building was nominated for awards in 2013 at both the World Architecture Festival and the biennial Inside Festival. In 2014, the Center won the Design Museum’s Design of the Year Award 2014 despite concerns about the site’s human rights record. This makes Zaha Hadid the first woman to win the top prize in that competition.
The building was featured in Extreme Engineering, a documentary television series that airs on the Discovery Channel and the Science Channel. The episode called “Azerbaijan’s Amazing Transformation” was aired on April 22, 2011 as part of Season 9. The Building was also featured on the “postcard” of Samra Rahimli for the postcard of Azerbaijan at the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 and in a Google Doodle in 2017.
On June 29, 2012, the Heydar Aliyev Center held the official opening of Crans Montana Forum, attended by President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, President of Macedonia Gjorge Ivanov, President of Montenegro Filip Vujanović, as well as foreign public figures, MPs, intellectuals, and business circles.
On July 3, 2012, the Center held the ceremony of the official seeing-off of the Azerbaijani delegation to take part in the XXX Summer Olympic Games in London. The ceremony was attended by the President Republic of Azerbaijan, President of the National Olympic Committee Ilham Aliyev and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva. Photo banners reflecting the Olympic movement in Azerbaijan were installed in the lobby of the Heydar Aliyev Center. President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev made a speech at the ceremony.
On 20 July 2012, a fire started on the roof of the building at about 11:30am. It was quickly put out by firemen, and it was initially reported that the fire only damaged the roof of the building, leaving the interior only slightly damaged, mainly because of the water used by firemen to extinguish the fire. The fire was found to have resulted from negligence in the use of welding equipment in the roof; three Turkish contractors were subsequently charged under Azerbaijan’s criminal code. The resulting damage was found to have had “grave consequences and material damage on a large scale”. Subsequent to sixteen months of repairs, it was formally (re)opened on November 5, 2013.
On Nov. 2 and 3, 2013, Moscow music theater “Helikon-Opera” under the direction of People’s Artist of Russia Dmitry Bertman presented performances at the Heydar Aliyev Center. On Nov. 2, the “Helikon-Opera” presented a gala concert “The Enduring Love”, a program that included lyric songs by Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner, Elton John, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, “The Beatles”, with “All You Need is Love”, “I believe in Love”, ”Je Suis Malade”, “Only You”, “Lady in Red”, “Love me Tender” performed. On Nov.3, the artists of the theater performed the opera “Siberia” by the Italian composer Umberto Giordano staged by Dmitry Bertmann. The opera narrates the story of love between two young people, which starts at brilliant imperial St. Petersburg and ends tragically in hard labor in Siberia.