Zaha Hadid

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Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid Portrait by Simone Cecchetti.jpg
Hadid in 2010
Born Zaha Mohammad Hadid
(1950-10-31)31 October 1950
Baghdad, Iraq
Died 31 March 2016(2016-03-31) (aged 65)
Miami, Florida, US
Nationality British, Iraqi
Alma mater American University of Beirut
Architectural Association School of Architecture, London
Occupation Architect
Practice Zaha Hadid Architects
Buildings MAXXI, Bridge Pavilion, Maggie's Centre, Contemporary Arts Center

Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid, DBE, RA (Arabic: زها حديد‎‎ Zahā Ḥadīd; 31 October 1950 – 31 March 2016) was an Iraqi-born British architect. She was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004.[1] She received the UK's most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, she was made a Dame by Elizabeth II for services to architecture, and in 2015 she became the first woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects.[2]

She was dubbed by The Guardian as the 'Queen of the curve'.[3] She liberated architectural geometry[4] with the creation of highly expressive, sweeping fluid forms of multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry that evoke the chaos and flux of modern life.[5] A pioneer of parametricism, and an icon of neo-futurism, with a formidable personality, her acclaimed work and ground-breaking forms include the aquatic centre for the London 2012 Olympics, Michigan State University's Broad Art Museum in the US, and the Guangzhou Opera House in China.[6] At the time of her death in 2016, Zaha Hadid Architects in London was the fastest growing British architectural firm.[7] Many of her designs are to be released posthumously, ranging in variation from the 2017 Brit Awards statuette to a 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium.[8][9]

Early life and academic career[edit]

Hadid's 4th year architecture student project (1976-77) for a hotel on a bridge over the Thames based on a work by the Russian Suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich

Hadid was born on 31 October 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq, to an upper-class Iraqi family.[10] Her father, Muhammad al-Hajj Husayn Hadid, was a wealthy industrialist from Mosul. He co-founded the left-liberal al-Ahali group in 1932, a significant political organisation in the 1930s and 1940s.[10] He was the co-founder of the National Democratic Party in Iraq.[10] Her mother, Wajiha al-Sabunji, was an artist from Mosul.[11] In the 1960s Hadid attended boarding schools in England and Switzerland.[12][13]

Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving, in 1972, to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture.[11] There she studied with Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis and Bernard Tschumi.[10] Her former professor, Koolhaas, described her at graduation as "a planet in her own orbit." [10] Zenghelis described her as the most outstanding pupil he ever taught. ‘We called her the inventor of the 89 degrees. Nothing was ever at 90 degrees. She had spectacular vision. All the buildings were exploding into tiny little pieces." He recalled that she was less interested in details, such as staircases. "The way she drew a staircase you would smash your head against the ceiling, and the space was reducing and reducing, and you would end up in the upper corner of the ceiling. She couldn’t care about tiny details. Her mind was on the broader pictures – when it came to the joinery she knew we could fix that later. She was right.’ [14] Her fourth-year student project was a painting of an hotel in the form of a bridge, inspired by the works of the Russian suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich.[15]

After graduation in 1977 She went to work for her former professors, Koolhaas and Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands,[5] Through her association with Koolhaas, she met the architectural engineer Peter Rice, who gave her support and encouragement.[10] Hadid became a naturalised citizen of the United Kingdom.[16][17] She opened her own architectural firm in 1980 [18]

She began her career teaching architecture, first at the Architectural Association, then, over the years, at Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge University, the University of Chicago, the Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste in Hamburg, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Columbia University. She earned her early reputation with her lecturing and colorful and radical early designs and projects, which were widely published in architectural journals but remained largely unbuilt. her ambitious but unbuilt projects included a plan for Peak in Hong Kong (1983), and a plan for for the Opera in Cardiff, Wales, (1994). The Cardiff experienced was particularly discouraging; her design was chosen as the best by the competition jury, but the Welsh government refused to pay for it, and the commission was given to a different and less ambitious architect. [19] Her reputation in this period rested largely upon her teaching and the imaginative and colorful paintings she made of her proposed buildings. Her international reputation was greatly enhanced in 1988 when she was chosen to show her drawings and paintings as one of six architects chosen to participate in the exhibition "Deconstructivism in Architecture" curated by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley at New York's Museum of Modern Art.[6] [20]

Early buildings (1991-2005)[edit]

One of her first clients was Rolf Fehlbaum, the president-director general of the German furniture firm Vitra, and later, from 2004 to 2010, a member of the jury for the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. In 1989 Fehlbaum had invited Frank Gehry, then little-known, to build a design museum at the Vitra factory in Weil-am-Rhein. In 1993, he invited Hadid to design a small fire station for the factory. Her designs for the radically fire station, made of raw concrete and glass, was a sculptural work composed of sharp diagonal forms colliding together in the center. Pictures of it appeared in architecture magazines before it was ever constructed. When completed, it never served as a fire station; as the government requirements for industrial firefighting were changed, and it became an exhibit space instead, and is now on display with the works of Gehry and other well-known architects. It became the launching pad of her architectural career.[20]

She built a complex of public housing in Berlin (1986-1993) and organized an exhibition, "The Great Utopia"(1992) , at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Her next major project was a ski jump at Bergisel, in Innsbruck Austria. The old ski jump, built in 1926, had been used in the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics. The new structure was to contain not only a ski jump, but also a cafe with 150 seats for a 360 degree view of the mountains. Hadid had to fight against traditionalists and against time; the project had to be completed in one year, before the next international competition. Her design is 48 meters high and rests on a base seven meters by seven meters. She described it as "an organic hybrid", a cross between a bridge and a tower, which by its form gives a sense of movement and speed.[21]

At the end of the 1990s, her career began to move more quickly, as she won commissions for two museums and a large industrial building. She competed against Rem Koolhaas and other well-known architects for the design of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinatti, Ohio (1997-2000). and won, and became the first woman to design an art museum in the United States. It was not an enormous museum (8500 square meters) and her design did not have the flamboyance of the Guggenheim Bilbao of Frank Gehry, built at the same time, but it showed her ability to use architectural forms to create interior drama, including its central element, a thirty-meter long black stairway that passes between massive curving and angular concrete walls. [22]

In 2000 she won an international competition for the Phaeno Science Center, in Wolfsburg, Germany (2000-2005). The new museums was only a little larger than the Cincinatti Museum, with 9000 square meters of space, but the plan was much more ambitious. It was similar in concept to the buildings of Le Corbusier, raised up seven meters on concrete pylons, but, unlike Corbusier's buildings, she planned for the space under the building to be filled with activity, and each of the ten massive inverted cone-shaped columns that hold up the building contains a cafe, a shop, or a museum entrance. The tilting columns reach up through the building and also support the roof. The museum structure resembles an enormous ship, with sloping walls and asymmetric scatterings of windows, and the interior, with it angular columns and exposed steel roof framework, gives the illusion of being inside a working vessel or laboratory. [23]

In 2001 she began another museum project, an extension of the Ordrupgaard Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, a museum featuring a collection of 19th century French and Danish art in the 19th century mansion of its collector. The new building is 87 meters long and 20 meters wide, and connects by a passage five meters wide with the old museum. There are no right angles, only diagonals, in the concrete shell of the museum. and the floor-to-ceiling glass walls of the gallery made the garden the backdrop of the exhibits. [23]

In 2002 she won the competition to design a new administrative building for the factory of the auto manufacturer BMW in Leipzig, Germany. The three assembly buildings adjoining it were designed by other architects; her building served as the entrance and the nerve center of the complex. As with the Phaeno Science Center, the building is hoisted above street level on leaning concrete pylons. The interior contains a levels and floors which seem to cascade, sheltered by tilting concrete beams and a roof supported by steel beams in the shape of an 'H'. The open interior inside was intended, she wrote, to avoid "the traditional segregation of working groups" and to show the "global transparence of the internal organization" of the enterprise, and wrote that she had given particular attention to the parking lot in front of the building, with the intent, she wrote, of "transforming it into a dynamic spectacle of its own." [24]

In 2004 she was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award in architecture, though she had only completed four buildings, including the VItra Fire Station, the Ski Lift in Insbruck Austria, and the Contemporary Art Center in CIncinatti. In making the announcement, Thomas Pritzker, the head of the jury, announced: "Although her body of work is relatively small, she has achieved great acclaim and her energy and ideas show even greater promise for the future." [25]

Bridges, MAXII and Guangzhou Opera House (2006-2010)[edit]

In 2002 Hadid won an international competition for her first project in China. The Guangzhou Opera House is located in a new business distict of the city, with a 103 story new glass tower behind it. It covers 70,000 square meters and was built at cost of 300 million dollars. The complex is composed of an 1800 seat theater, a multipurpose theater, entry hall and salon. A covered pathway with restaurants and shops separates the two main structures. This building, like several of later buildings, was inspired by natural earth forms; the architect herself referred to as the "Two pebbles," two giant smooth-edged boulders covered with 75,000 plaques of granite and glass windows. .[26] Nicolai Ourousoff, architecture critic of the New York Times, wrote that "stepping into the main hall is like entering the soft insides of an oyster...The concave ceiling is pierced by thousands of little lights- it looks like you're sitting under the dome of a clear night sky." Ourousoff noted that the finished building had construction problems; many of the granite tiles on the exterior had to be replaced, and the plaster and other interior work was poorly done by the inexperienced workers, but he praised Hadid's ability "to convey a sense of bodies in motion" and called the building "a Chinese gem that elevates its setting." [27]


n the 1990s, she held the Sullivan Chair professorship at the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Architecture. At various times, she served as guest professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg (HFBK Hamburg), the Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State University, the Masters Studio at Columbia University, and was the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at the Yale School of Architecture. From 2000, Hadid was a guest professor at the Institute of Architecture at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, in the Zaha Hadid Master Class Vertical-Studio.[28]

Interior architecture and product design[edit]

Hadid's fluid interior of the Silken Puerta America in Madrid

Hadid also undertook some high-profile interior work, including the Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome in London as well as creating fluid furniture installations within the Georgian surroundings of Home House private members club in Marylebone, and the Z.CAR hydrogen-powered, three-wheeled automobile. In 2009 she worked with the clothing brand Lacoste, to create a new, high fashion, and advanced boot.[29][30] In the same year, she also collaborated with the brassware manufacturer Triflow Concepts to produce two new designs in her signature parametric architectural style.[31]

In 2007, Hadid designed Dune Formations for David Gill Gallery and the Moon System Sofa for leading Italian furniture manufacturer B&B Italia.[32][33]

In 2013, Hadid designed Liquid Glacial for David Gill Gallery which comprises a series of tables resembling ice-formations made from clear and coloured acrylic. Their design embeds surface complexity and refraction within a powerful fluid dynamic.[34] The collection was further extended in 2015–2016. In 2016 the gallery launched Zaha's final collection of furniture entitled UltraStellar[35]

Architectural work[edit]

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at 547 East Circle Drive, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan US
Library and Learning Center, Vienna

Her architectural design firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, employs 400 people, and is headquartered in a Victorian former school building in Clerkenwell, London.[36]

Conceptual projects[edit]

Completed projects (selection)[edit]

Uncompleted projects[edit]

In 2010, Hadid was commissioned by the Iraqi government to design the new building for the Central Bank of Iraq. An agreement to complete the design stages of the new CBI building was finalised on 2 February 2012, at a ceremony in London.[54] This was her first project in her native Iraq.[55] Other work included Pierres Vives, the new departmental records building (to host three institutions, namely, the archive, the library and the sports department), for French department Hérault, in Montpellier.[56]

Hadid's project was named as the best for the Vilnius Guggenheim Hermitage Museum in 2008. She designed the Innovation Tower for Hong Kong Polytechnic University, scheduled for completion in 2013, and the Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion that was displayed in Hong Kong in 2008.[57][58][59] She completed a new building for Evelyn Grace Academy in London in 2010.[60]

In 2011 the Capital Hill Residence was completed. A villa in the Barvikha Forest outside Moscow, it was designed for Russian property developer Vladislav Doronin and is the only private residence that Hadid designed during her lifetime.[61]

In 2012, Hadid won an international competition to design a new National Olympic Stadium as part of the successful bid by Tokyo to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.[62] As the estimated cost of the construction mounted, however, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in July 2015 that Hadid's design would be scrapped in favour of a new bidding process to seek a less expensive alternative.[63] Hadid had planned to enter the new competition, but her firm was unable to meet the new requirement of finding a construction company with which to partner.[64]

Non-architectural work[edit]

Museum exhibitions[edit]

  • 1978 – Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • 1983 – Retrospective at the Architectural Association, London
  • 1985 – GA Gallery, Tokyo
  • 1988 – Deconstructivist Architecture show at Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • 1995 – Graduate School of Design at Harvard University
  • 1997 – San Francisco MoMA
  • 2000 – British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
  • 2001 – Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (de)
  • 2002 – (10 May – 11 August) – Centro nazionale per le arti contemporanee, Rome[65]
  • 2003 – (4 May – 17 August) – MAK – Museum für angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Arts) in Vienna
  • 2006 – (3 June – 25 October) – Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
  • 2006 – (1 June – 29 July) – Ma10 Mx Protetch Gallery, Chelsea, NYC
  • 2007 – (29 June – 25 November) – Design Museum, London
  • 2007 – Dune Formations with David Gill Gallery – Venice Biennale
  • 2011/12 – (20 September – 25 March) – Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • 2012 – Liquid Glacial – David Gill Gallery, London
  • 2013 – (29 June – 29 September) – Zaha Hadid: World Architecture at the Danish Architecture Center[66]
  • 2015 – (27 June – 27 September) – Zaha Hadid at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia[67]

Other work[edit]

  • Nightlife (1999). Zaha Hadid designed the stage set for the Pet Shop Boys' world tour.
  • A Day with Zaha Hadid (2004). A 52-minute documentary where Zaha Hadid discusses her current work while taking the camera through her retrospective exhibition "Zaha Hadid has Arrived". Directed by Michael Blackwood.[68]
  • On 2 January 2009, she was the guest editor of the BBC's flagship morning radio news programme, Today.[69]


On 31 March 2016, Hadid died of a heart attack in a Miami hospital, where she was being treated for bronchitis.[70][71]


Dubbed 'Queen of the curve', Hadid has a reputation as the world's top female architect,[3][72][73][74][75] although her reputation is not without criticism. She is considered an architect of unconventional thinking, whose buildings are organic, dynamic and sculptural.[76][77] Stanton and others also compliment her on her unique organic designs: "One of the main characteristics of her work is that however clearly recognizable, it can never be pigeonholed into a stylistic signature. Digital knowledge, technology-driven mutations, shapes inspired by the organic and biological world, as well as geometrical interpretation of the landscape are constant elements of her practice. Yet, the multiplicity and variety of the combination among these facets prevent the risk of self-referential solutions and repetitions."[78] Allison Lee Palmer considers Hadid a leader of Deconstructivism in architecture, writing that, "Almost all of Hadid's buildings appear to melt, bend, and curve into a new architectural language that defies description. Her completed buildings span the globe and include the Jockey Club Innovation Tower on the north side of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, completed in 2013, that provides Hong Kong an entry into the world stage of cutting-edge architecture by revealing a design that dissolved traditional architecture, the so called modernist "glass box," into a shattering of windows and melting of walls to form organic structures with halls and stairways that flow through the building, pooling open into rooms and foyers."[79]

Hadid's architectural language has been described by some as "famously extravagant" with many of her projects sponsored by "dictator states".[80] Rowan Moore described Hadid's Heydar Aliyev Center as "not so different from the colossal cultural palaces long beloved of Soviet and similar regimes". Architect Sean Griffiths characterised Hadid's work as "an empty vessel that sucks in whatever ideology might be in proximity to it".[81] Art historian Maike Aden criticises in particular the foreclosure of Zaha Hadid's architecture of the MAXXI in Rome towards the public and the urban life that undermines even the most impressive program to open the museum.[82]

Qatar controversy[edit]

As the architect of a stadium to be used for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Hadid defended her involvement in the project, despite revelations relating to the working conditions imposed on migrant workers in Qatar. She acknowledged that there was a serious problem with the number of migrant workers who have died during construction work related to the World Cup. She said that she believed it was a problem for the Qatari government to resolve:

"I have nothing to do with the workers", said Zaha. "I think that's an issue the government—if there's a problem—should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved." Asked if she was concerned, Zaha added: "Yes, but I'm more concerned about the deaths in Iraq as well, so what do I do about that? I'm not taking it lightly but I think it's for the government to look to take care of. It's not my duty as an architect to look at it. I cannot do anything about it because I have no power to do anything about it. I think it's a problem anywhere in the world. But, as I said, I think there are discrepancies all over the world."[83]

In August 2014, Hadid sued The New York Review of Books for defamation for publishing an article which included this quote and allegedly accused her of "showing no concern" for the deaths of workers in Qatar.[84] Immediately thereafter, the reviewer and author of the piece in which she was accused of showing no concern issued a retraction in which he said " did not begin on the site for the Al Wakrah stadium, until two months after Ms Hadid made those comments; and construction is not scheduled to begin until 2015.... There have been no worker deaths on the Al Wakrah project and Ms Hadid's comments about Qatar that I quoted in the review had nothing to do with the Al Wakrah site or any of her projects. I regret the error."[9]

Awards, nominations and recognition[edit]

Hadid was named an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects. She was on the board of trustees of The Architecture Foundation.[85]

In 2002, Hadid won the international design competition to design Singapore's one-north master plan. In 2004, Hadid became the first female and first Iraqi recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.[86] In 2005, her design won the competition for the new city casino of Basel, Switzerland [87] and she was elected as a Royal Academician.[88] In 2006, she was honoured with a retrospective spanning her entire work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York; that year she also received an Honorary Degree from the American University of Beirut.

In 2008, she ranked 69th on the Forbes list of "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women".[89] In 2010, she was named by Time as an influential thinker in the 2010 TIME 100 issue.[90]

In September 2010, New Statesman listed Zaha Hadid at number 42 in their annual survey of "The World's 50 Most Influential Figures 2010".[91] Hadid was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to architecture.[92][93]

She was listed as one of the "50 Best-Dressed over 50" by the Guardian in March 2013.[94] Three years later, she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4.[95]

She won the Stirling Prize two years running: in 2010, for one of her most celebrated works, the MAXXI in Rome,[96] and in 2011 for the Evelyn Grace Academy, a Z‑shaped school in Brixton, London.[97] She also designed the Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park in Seoul, South Korea, which was the centrepiece of the festivities for the city's designation as World Design Capital 2010. In 2014, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, designed by her, won the Design Museum Design of the Year Award, making her the first woman to win the top prize in that competition.[2]

In January 2015, she was nominated for the Services to Science and Engineering award at the British Muslim Awards.[98]

In 2016 in Antwerp, Belgium a square was named after her, Zaha Hadidplein, in front of the extension of the Antwerp Harbour House designed by Zaha Hadid.

Other awards and honours[edit]

See also[edit]


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  • Taschen, Aurelia and Balthazar (2016). L'Architecture Moderne de A à Z (in French). Bibliotheca Universalis. ISBN 978-3-8365-5630-9. 
  • Jodidio, Philip (2016). Zaha Hadid (in French). Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8365-3626-4. 

External links[edit]