Zaha Hadid: Iraqi architect who changed architecture
London - Zaha Hadid’s trailblazing mark on architecture features sweeping curves, dramatic acute angles and eye-catching shapes that were turned into dramatic structures across the world.
She was known as the “Queen of the Curve”. Her avant-garde use of angles and space mesmerised other architects and infuriated some critics. Nevertheless, her unique style will remain a major source of emulation for years to come.
Among her better-known designs were the Guangzhou, China, opera house; the Sheikh Zayed bridge in Abu Dhabi; London’s Olympic aquatic centre and the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku.
There were other works on the drawing boards at Zaha Hadid Architects, her eponymous firm, when she died March 31st after suffering a heart attack in a Miami hospital where she was being treated for bronchitis. She was 65.
Hadid was born in 1950 in Baghdad to a family that included a politically active father and an artist mother. She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before attending London’s Architectural Association School of Architecture. Hadid Architects was founded in 1979.
In 2004, she was the first woman awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Among her many other awards were the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize in both 2010 and 2011 and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2016.
Hadid blazed an uncompromising trail in an industry traditionally dominated by men, a path that many other women are following.
“I am very proud to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal, in particular, to be the first woman to receive the honour in my own right,” she said in her award speech. “…We now see more established female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress.”
Hadid’s most critically acclaimed buildings came relatively late in her architectural career. Her reputation was built on breathtaking designs influenced by the Russian abstract art movement Suprematism. It was years before her ideas were transformed into reality with the Vitra Fire Station in Germany completed in 1993, doubtless one of the most architecturally stunning fire stations in the world.
New projects quickly followed and the last decade or so has seen a series of her designs turned into reality, including the Rosenthal Centre of Contemporary Art in Cincinnati in 2003, the Maxxi Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome in 2009, the Guangzhou opera house in 2010, the London’s Olympic aquatic centre in 2011 and the Heydar Aliyev centre in Baku in 2013.
Zaha Hadid Architects has carried out more than 950 projects in 44 countries. Each design broke new ground and helped create a portfolio that cemented Hadid’s place as perhaps the greatest female architect.
“Zaha Hadid was widely regarded to be the greatest female architect in the world,” a statement issued by Zaha Hadid Architects said, dubbing her “our heroine”.
“For Muslims and women, Zaha Hadid was a shining torch,” said Yasmin Shariff, director of Dennis Sharp Architects.
Former RIBA president Angela Brady described Hadid as “one of the greatest architects of our time”.
“She was a tough architect, which is needed as a woman at the top of her profession and at the height of her career. She will be sadly missed as an iconic leader in architecture and as a role model for women in architecture,” Brady said.
Her loss will be sorely felt but her unique vision will continue to influence architecture. Hadid’s firm has a number of projects in various stages of progress and planning approval, including three projects in Australia.
In Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, fans will not just marvel at the international football on the pitch but also at the curves of Hadid’s Al Wakrah stadium.
Zaha Hadid’s place as one of the world’s greatest female architects seems assured. The question is which architects can continue pushing further on the path she began.