Zaha la celebrità

13 Nov 2009

As the MAXXI opened in Rome this week, Hadid proved she has maxxi-mum appeal

Press gathered at the gates of the MAXXI in Rome over one hour before they were due to enter the invited preview event this past Thursday. As each shuffled closer to the gate, clamouring with tripods, microphones and cumbersome cameras, it became clear that despite an obvious anticipation for the revelation of this new cultural gem, the building was not the main attraction: the true draw was its architect - Zaha Hadid.

Left off the leash to take photographs and footage of the building, over 300 journalists toured the building independently before congregating amass in an exhibition space in the lower levels, decked out with too few seats, facing a top table. Bickering over seats which took place on ground level was avoided by numerous journalists who realised their view would be obscured by the dozens of cameramen and women holding the front line anyway, and took the high ground lining the staircase for a better view. Eventually everyone had found their best vantage point, and then in walked Zaha.

Walking tentatively between the rows of chairs Zaha, flacked by suited and wired security guards, never quite made it to the top table before she was obliged to indulge an impromptu photoshoot as one by one journalists threw their vantage ownership aside and went for the money shot.

Fifteen minutes or so later and Zaha was finally ushered to her seat and the talks began. First, the MAXXI President Pio Baldi spoke, followed by members of the Italian team and the Italian Culture Minister Sandro Bondi, each met with muted applause. As the microphone was handed to Zaha, however, the crowd erupted in unanimous applause. Evidently not entirely comfortable in the spotlight, she braved the flashes and focussed faces to deliver an explanation of her glee at delivering the project and to thank others who helped see the project through to fruition, not least her wing-man and partner for the MAXXI project Patrik Schumacher, who cast a rather more isolated figure in the wings as Zaha delivered her speech.

Speeches over, and some time for journalists to ask their questions. But without the formality of a chaired conference, Zaha was soon encircled by a crown of cameras with no exit. At first happy to engage, it wasn't long before the crowd had closed it too tight and an anxious Zaha was ushered away by security, eventually escaping the attention by hopping into one of the elevators with just her staff and security.

With Zaha gone, the time allocated for roaming the building was instead replaced by the demolishing of a scrumptious banquet and the supping of wine by the famished news crews, satisfied that their work there was done.

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