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TO NOV. 17
Zaha Hadid is a “paper architect”: For years, the Iraqi-born Brit was better known for her dazzling computer-aided digital renderings of colorful shards and sinews that only sorta looked like buildings than for her total output of built solo projects. Until 1993—when a fire station was constructed in Germany—she had no major completed works. But by the approach of the new millennium, Frank Gehry had shown the world that translating fanciful sculptures from Mac screen to reality was both desirable and doable, and Hadid started to win big commissions for museums, factories, ferry stations, and even a ski jump (pictured). Yet the lovely plans these recently and soon-to-be-completed projects, now on display at the National Building Museum, are hardly more comprehensible than Hadid’s straight-to-gallery works of the past. The buildings are rendered as radiant abstractions in a black void, giving little indication of the context or scale of the structures, the materials they’re built of, or how real people might experience them. Even for a work that’s actually been completed—a parking lot and light-rail station in Strasbourg, France—we get several bird’s-eye views of a roof, a perspective that only human beings seated in Concordes could enjoy. With curators leaving it to the architect to discuss her projects in her own words, viewers may wonder if the realized works of this so-called paper architect have paper souls. The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays, and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays to Sunday, Nov. 17, at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. $5 (suggested donation). (202) 272-2448. (David Morton)