Remembering starchitect Zaha Hadid.
Farewell to an exceptional architect who forged a soaring curve in the glass ceiling.
As news spread of the unexpected and untimely death of Zaha Hadid, aged 65, from a heart attack in a Miami hospital on March 31, the tributes poured in. Regarded by many as one of the greatest architects of her generation, Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid, DBE was the rst woman to win the Pritzker Prize (2004) and the RIBA Gold Medal (2016). In the words of British architect and friend Amanda Levete, she was “an extraordinary role model for women … fearless and a trailblazer”. Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas described her as a “combination of beauty and strength, incredibly generous and funny”.
Born in Baghdad in 1950, educated in Beirut, Zaha studied architecture at London’s Architectural Association in the 70s. She was tutored by Koolhaas and worked with him before setting up Zaha Hadid Architects in 1979. Patrik Schumacher became a partner in 1988 and the practice now employs 400.
Zaha’s rst major building to gain international recognition was the Vitra re station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany (1994) with its pointy awning that is quite different from her later more uid work.
Subsequent notable projects would have to include the 2005 Phaeno Science Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany – signi cant for her use of self-compacting concrete that made its angles, curves and protrusions achievable – the Guangzhou opera house (2010) that has put the Chinese city on the map and the Riverside Museum of Transport in Glasgow (2012) with its zigzag roof of zinc as well as the Aquatics Centre for London’s 2012 Olympics.
One of her last completed buildings is the 2015 Messner Mountain Museum, with its part buried, part cantilevered viewing platform at the top of the Alpine peak of Mount Kronplatz in Italy’s Dolomites.
Inevitably there were disappointments – in 1994 she won a competition to design Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales but it was never built due to local prejudices. More recently, her design for the Tokyo Olympics stadium was controversially dropped. The Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, with its swooping wave-like curves is one of her most recent and important jobs, but also brought hurtful criticism over human rights issues in the former Soviet state and oilrich but relatively poor country.
At the time of her death Zaha Hadid Architects had numerous projects reaching completion and a mixed-use tower proposed for downtown Melbourne that is currently before council.
Zaha’s interests spanned fashion to industrial design. She dressed in her own unclassi able way – often in Issey Miyake. Her small-scale designs include a stunning cuff bracelet for Georg Jensen launched days before her death, a bespoke 3D-printed shoe for United Nude and various furniture collaborations – all embraced new technologies and echoed her general approach to design.
Above all Zaha was an architect – and a brave, radical one at that. To quote Marcus Fairs, Dezeen’s editor-in-chief: “She left us ahead of time – but she did everything ahead of time. Many of us weren’t ready for her arrival; none of us were ready for her departure”. zaha-hadid.com
Clockwise from top left The proposed Collins Street tower, Melbourne. Dame Zaha Hadid. Messner Mountain Museum. Phaeno Science Centre in Germany. ‘Liquid Glacial’ table at David Gill Gallery, London. ‘Lamellae’ cu for Georg Jensen. Heydar Aliyev Center, Azerbaijan. Vitra re station. ‘Flames’ 3D-printed shoe.