Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, Azerbaijan, by Zaha Hadid - The Style Examiner (1)

Like other oil-rich nations in the Caucasus region, Azerbaijan is in the midst of a star-studded building boom. The most recent addition to its collection is the Heydar Aliyev International Airport Baku by Istanbul-based designers Autoban, but the Azerbaijani interest in architecture has a rich heritage that stems from its history as a secular Muslim republic situated at the crossroads of East and West. The Baku airport is named after the former president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev. In the large terminal, round cocoon-like spaces are meant to break the convention of airport architecture by making more personal, warm spaces made of softly lit, natural materials like wood, stone and textiles.


The striking infrastructure project joins a cast of recent architectural characters in the country including the award-winning Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid Architects, which has come under fire for the labor practices that were used in its construction, but has also wowed visitors and critics alike with its strong, swooping digital form. While the Heydar Aliyev Center receives the bulk of the attention, a host of other projects have been proposed around the country, both in the capital of Baku and elsewhere in the nation.


The Baku White City by Azerbaijan Development Company is a large office complex which will serve as a business center and the beginning of development in the Nobel Avenue region of the city. BIG has jumped into the Azerbaijan foray with an eco-friendly master plan for Zira Island. The Baku Olympic Stadium by Turkish firm Tekfen will open in 2015, while the Sports Concert Complex by German architects gmp Architekten will host events for music as well as sports.


Along with oil and natural gas money, inspiration and ambition are also fueling the building boom. There’s Azercosmos, a satellite control center by Nariman Architecture. The tallest building in the country, the SOCAR Tower, is being built in Baku, but another tower, the Avesta Group’s planned site on the artificial Khazar Islands in the Caspian Sea, will eclipse the SOCAR if all goes as planned. These projects harken back to the days when Azerbaijan was really in the center of cosmic construction.


The Baku TV Tower and Baku State Circus are just two of the Soviet-period buildings of the Cold War era. Azerbaijan also is a treasure trove of pre-modern architecture. Ancient Islamic buildings abound, such as the Muhammad Mosque, with its grand interiors. Much of the city of Baku echoes a neoclassical Russian Imperial style. This layering of history and the current boom of building makes Azerbaijan an unexpected oasis of architecture, both past and future. ( By Matt Shaw from )