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Grand Hotel Lugano

Neutral, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)

When the fire starts to burn.

Zaha Hadid Architects' proposal for the Casino and Grand Hotel in Lugano represents the first Neutral paid commission.
Let's revise the words by Tapio Snellman and Christian Grou about the project:
"The project was a first hands-on discussion with the design team who referenced lava flows as one of the overriding concepts for the entire complex. Flows defined the start of the abstract animation and solidified into topographic strands of the hotel and casino."

The 1999 project did not qualify in the competition and consequently never realized, but it is noticeable that Zaha Hadid was one of the first architects to use digital tools for the design, presentation, and eventually communication via video of the project. As Snellman and Grou say, the lava flows (as the ice) became a central part of ZHA aesthetic and poetry - carrying their significance of dynamism, fluidity, transparency with them, and transforming them into a physical and metaphorical object.

The video starts with a depiction of a realistic-looking lava flow, the heat and the fire concealed under the dark stones, that, eventually, is transformed into red fluxes. This fluxes. cooling down, become part of the structure of the Casino and Grand Hotel: thus the three-dimensionally of the design is enhanced and celebrated, putting a spotlight on the spatial characteristic of said proposal. Cooling down, the red-burning fluxes became white, thus referring to the other main element of Zaha Hadid's aesthetic, the ice.

The video carries on, describing the project in better detail, making the overall structure evident and visible to the viewer - keep in mind this was a competition, so the video had to convey both the poetry plus the vibe and the ambiance and exteriors, so to make this understandable to the jury - however, it is crucial to notice how much ZHA's communication - through Neutral's fundamental contribution - relied on the pulse of such videos, taking advantage and using in an innovative way digital animation (and music).

(Story by Sara Marzullo, The Architecture Player)


Mentioned projects: Casino and Grand Hotel in Lugano (proposal, 1999)
Project location: Lugano, Switzerland

United Kingdom 1999
Duration: 4'07"