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Zaha Hadid: art museum, Cagliari, Italy.

Raffish, rakish Cagliari, Sardinia's down-and-dirty port city, looks set to be catapulted onto the international trophy art museum circuit if Zaha Hadid's latest vision comes to pass. At the end of last year, Hadid won a heavy hitting competition for a Mediterranean Museum of Nuragic and Contemporary Art to be built on Cagliari's seafront, beating a clutch of high profile rivals such as Fuksas, Nouvel and Herzog & de Meuron.

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Nuragic art is quintessentially Sardinian. The island's Bronze Age civilisations produced the most advanced and monumental architecture of the period in the entire western Mediterranean. Today there are around 8000 nuraghes (truncated cone towers made of stone blocks) scattered across Sardinia, though it was estimated that their number was once as great as 30 000. Other Nuragic artefacts include bronze statues (they were skilled metallurgists), as well as stone statues and carvings. Covering some 12 000sqm, the new museum will be built in three phases. Unusually, perhaps, for such a consciously blockbusting project, it draws together ancient and modern, the archaeological and the immediate, with exhibition spaces for Nuragic and contemporary art, together with a library, congress hall, offices and retail space. Its main aim is to be a forum for cultural exchange, which could be interesting, given the very different cultures involved, underscored with more familiar platitudes about being a new civic landmark.

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Poised conspicuously on Cagliari's seafront, Hadid's agglomeration of fluidly plastic forms will be hard to avoid. Described by its architect as a 'coralline concretion', it writhes and heaves like a blanched, beached sea creature along the water's edge. Inside, a succession of eroded spaces and cavities beget a moody, cave-like atmosphere, complete with display vitrines sculpted in the shape of stalagmites and stalactites.

Clearly such seductive visualisations will be challenging to realise in practice, but after the complexities of Wolfsburg (AR April 2006), and given that Hadid is cannily accumulating experience of building in Italy with her ongoing Contemporary Art Centre in Rome, if anyone can pull off a coup in Cagliari, she can. C. S.

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The public and civic appetite for major new cultural buildings shows no sign of diminishing.
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Title Annotation:Culture
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2007
Words:364
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