Zaha Hadid's new Baku building up for two awards
Heydar Aliyev Centre is short-listed for prizes at the World Architecture Festival and the Inside Festival
Unlike some of the newer oil cities, Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, has a well-established cultural history: it is known for its Zoroastrian temples, sturgeon caviar, and fine chess traditions - Garry Kasparov was born in the city.
Yet, like other conurbations rising fast on the back of oil wealth, Baku is also attracting contemporary cultural plaudits with its petrodollars. In 2012 it hosted the Eurovision Song Contest, in 2015 it will welcome competitors for the European Games. This year it may win a few architectural gongs, thanks to the city's recently completed Heydar Aliyev Centre, designed by the Pritzker-Prize winner Zaha Hadid. The building has been short-listed for prizes at both this October's World Architecture Festival and at the concurrent Inside Festival, which recognises excellence in interior design.
The centre, named after Azerbaijan's late ruler, is a multi-purpose cultural venue, housing a library, museum and conference centre. Commissioned in 2007, it was only topped-out recently, and these new pictures go some way to show why both the exterior and the interior has won over international design crowd.
As with many other Hadid creations, commentators have praised the building's continuous, undulating form. Yet the centre 57,519m² of floorspace also appears to draw in quite a lot of natural light, while sheltering its visitors from the gales that often buffet this coastal city, on the western edge of the Caspian Sea.
And if these short-listings weren't sufficient proof that Baku had arrived, then perhaps the Centre's current contemporary art exhibition will win you over. At the moment the Heydar Aliyeve is hosting a Warhol retrospective, organised under the aegis of the artist's estate – another cultural marker of a first-class modern city, we feel.
To find out more about the centre go here. To learn more about the great buildings of the this century, please take a look at our Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture, which, in a single volume, features over 1,000 of the most outstanding works of architecture built since 2000. For more on Warhol, take a look at our titles. Oh, and, if you want to gain access to some great offers and inspiring events, do sign up for our Phaidon Club before you buy it. Your points gained will count towards future purchases.