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The Architectural Potential of Steel Underlined in Landmark New Building

“The most important thing is motion, the flux of things, a non-Euclidean geometry …” As shown by this quotation from the catalogue for an exhibition at the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts, the Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid prefers flowing forms. An impressive example of this concept is currently being built in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan: the Heydar Aliyev Congress Center, designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, with an envelope made from more than 30,000 square meters of construction elements from ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe.

The capital of the oil and gas-rich republic is giving itself a 57,519 square meter building that will house a conference area with three auditoriums, a museum and a library. Named after the predecessor and father of today’s president of Azerbaijan and situated close to the city center, the building will play a pivotal role in the cultural and intellectual life of the city on the Caspian Sea.

The building’s design idiom is all about motion and flux. There are no right angles or straight lines to be seen anywhere in its envelope. Instead, gentle arcs and tension-filled curves dominate. According to Zaha Hadid on her website, the fluid form emerges from the folding of the landscape’s natural topography and the wrapping of individual functions of the Center. The functions are represented by folds in a single continuous surface, says the winner of the world-renowned Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The use of steel for such a landmark building underlines once again the architectural potential of the material. The choice of steel construction elements from ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe shows that no distance is too far for quality. More than 5,500 kilometers separate the Siegerland district, where Germany’s biggest steelmaker manufactures its construction elements, and Baku in the Caucasus. The twelve meter long and 1.5 millimeter thick profiled sheets were first transported by truck to Istanbul. There the material was transshipped by Turkish distribution partner EMI INSAAT Ltd., responsible for the logistics of the project, and delivered to Baku, again by truck.

Once on the site the elements were cut into three meter long pieces and mounted on a lattice-like steel support structure. The trapezoidal profiles supplied by ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe have a profile depth of 100 millimeters. The galvanized steel is coated with polyester in RAL 9002 gray-white. The high-quality profiles are distinguished by consistent coating thickness and hardness, long life and a high degree of weathering resistance.

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