Fire at Hadid's Cultural Centre

Wednesday 25 Jul 2012

The roof at Zaha Hadid's Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre in Baku goes up in flames

A fire broke out atop the roof of Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan on Friday 20 July at around 11:30am.

The blaze - in which no one was injured - was extinguished on the same day by around 50 fire engines and a series of helicopters. Police have detained three people in connection with the fire, which is reported to have been a possible outcome of a failure to comply with fire safety regulations during a welding procedure, which was carried out on the roof.

The interior of the building, named after the former KGB chief and ruler of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev suffered no serious or lasting damage, according to the Azeri Ministry for Emergency Situations. The ministry’s major general, Fuzuli Asadov however, told a press conference that around 1,000 sq m of the roof was damaged by the fire.

The Cultural Centre houses a conference hall, three auditoriums, a library, and its main attraction, the museum in its five-storey area. Intended to be a cultural hub for the intellectual and educational life of the city, the building is located close to the city centre, with neighbouring residential offices, a hotel and commercial centre. The facade itself has a form which is fluid, and emerges through its folding design. As the folds carry on inside, the skin ebbs away to merge with its interior.

Located in Baku, the building is one of Hadid’s newer projects, having opened in May of this year to mark the 89th birthday of Heydar Aliyev; the country’s Soviet-era ruler who became president of Azerbaijan in 1993.

He passed away in 2003 after having chaired Azerbaijan’s KGB for more than 20 years, and his career was shrouded in controversy after being accused of human rights violations in the later years of his post-Soviet presidency by Amnesty International. Hadid’s decision to erect a structure in his name has been quite a divisive one, sparking much debate over the past four years.

Samantha Morley

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