Zaha Hadid: Iraqi architect who changed architecture

Friday 08/04/2016
A file photo taken on September 25, 2013, shows Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid posing for pictures outside her design for an extension of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London.

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.