The Iranian-born British architect Zaha Hadid recently died at the age of 65. She will be remembered for her designs dominated by challenging curves and confrontational lines. The honour shown to her after her death, is well earned.
Zaha Hadid, much talked about architect of the London Aquatic Centre, died on 31 March of a heart attack.
This Dame of the British Empire (DBE) was undoubtedly the world’s most successful female architect. She was known for her strong views on the way in which women are still treated as second rate in the field of architecture. It was in this light that she once asked whether she would have been called a diva if she was a man. The insinuation that women should rather stick to interior design and that they ‘lack in logic’ also didn’t sit well with her. (According to the Financial Times, Hadid studied mathematics before choosing a career in architecture.)
She was the first women to win the Pritzker Prize for architecture as well as the British Stirling Prize. (Her death re-opened a debate on the place of women in architecture, with the launch of an informal investigation by the New York Times to find out how women working in architecture see their career.)
Hadid first drew international attention in 1983 with her design for a hotel in Hong Kong. Known as ‘The Peak’, the British Guardian described it as ‘a series of overlapping cantilevers jut[ting] out into space, providing layers of accommodation, bars and restaurants, as well as hotel rooms’. While ambitious it was also completely buildable, according to Peter Rice, the engineer who was involved with the building of the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Although it won the first place in an international competition, it turned out that there was no money to build it.
The same would happen to Hadid again – and again: her winning designs for the Cardiff Opera House and the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo also did not make it further than paper.
Hadid’s first design to be built was the Vitra fire station with its very sharp corners. The station was commissioned by the Vitra Design Museum for the volunteer fire service on terrain. Not very practical, the sharp forms remind one of shards of glass and quickly made an impression the world over. With her death, she leaves various well-known and prize-winning buildings, carrying her signature, including the Maxxi, the Italian National Museum for 21st Century art; the Riverside Museum of Transport (Glasgow, 2011); the Heydar Aliyev Centre (Baku, 2013); and a stadium for the 2022 Soccer World Cup in Qatar.
Click here for ten of Hadid’s most famous designs.