Snapshot: Arum
Photo © Sergio Pirrone

Generally, Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid deals in organic forms more amoebic than botanic. But for the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) produced the bloomlike Arum, a 20-foot-tall installation of lightweight, pleated aluminum that takes its shape from the Northern European flower of the same name. The ZHA design team arrived at the floral form with the help of the office's Computation and Design Group (ZHA|CODE) and its research on shell structures-typically concrete forms that retain their shape and support loads without a steel frame. "The corrugation makes the whole thing stand," says ZHA staff architect Saman Saffarian, describing Arum's origami-like folds. With help from U.K.-based engineering and professional-services consultancy Buro Happold, " we tried to push the boundaries of the structure's stability. The safest thing would have been to add external supports, but that would have been too easy," says Saffarian, jokingly. Arum is flanked by abstracted roof forms from ZHA's recent commissions (visible here in the background), including the Aquatics Centre at the 2012 London Olympics, and structural prototypes. With Arum, the firm is embracing its penchant for experimental forms and feats of engineering. The installation is on view at the Biennale until November 25.