Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan has won Design of the Year 2014, the top prize at the annual Design Museum awards. It is the first architectural project ever to win, with Hadid being the first woman to receive the prize in its seven-year history. The jury was headed up by journalist Ekow Eshun and included Kim Colin of Industrial Facility and CZWG Architects’ Piers Gough.
Hadid’s building pipped six other category winners including Konstantin Grcic’s Pro Chair Family (furniture) and The Seaboard Grand (product), a piano keyboard with soft keys controlled through multi-directional hand gestures.
The building is a 101,800sq m cultural centre housing a conference hall, gallery and museum, named after Heydar Aliyev, former president of Azerbaijan (1993-2003). Its swooping white exterior shell is clad in tiles and contrasting dark glazing, a typical aesthetic of Hadid’s firm and one that jury member Kim Colin felt was a ‘pinnacle moment in their portfolio, a sign of international maturity.” Ekow Eschun said, “it’s a clear vision of a singular genius and we thought it was a remarkable piece of work.”
However, the win has sparked criticism from some quarters, with professor of architecture at University of the Arts in London Jeremy Till writing, “the human rights record of Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, should have been enough to rule this one out from inclusion (in the awards) in the first place.”
Last year’s winner was the UK Government website, Gov.uk, by GDS. Previous winners were the Olympic torch by Barber & Osgerby, Plumen 001 by Samuel Wilkinson and Hulger, and the Folding Plug by Min-Kyu Choi.