Zaha Hadid

Heydar Center
Heydar Aliyev Center on December 27, 2014 in Baku, Azerbaijan. Heydar Aliyev Center won the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year Award in 2014

Zaha Hadid was a famous architect known for her contemporary iconic architecture. Hadid was born in Baghad, Iraq in 1950, during a time when modernism implied progression and glamour in Iraq and in the Middle East.

Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon before moving on to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. She worked for her former professors Koolhaas and Zengelis at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in the Netherlands. In 1977 Hadid became a partner there. During a difficult time as an young architect she was given encouragement by Peter Rice that she met through Koolhaas. Rice was a famed engineer best known for spending 7 years working on the Sydney Opera House project.

Through Rice’s support, Hadid gained the strength and confidence in her concepts which went on to win several awards all the while generating controversy. Hadid opened her first practice in London in 1980 which went on to becoming Zaha Hadid Architects and currently employees around 350 people. During the 1980s she also taught at the Architectural Association School. She also taught at the Harvard Graduate school of Design as well as other schools around the world including Yale.

In 2004, Hadid was the first and only woman and the first Muslim to win the Pritzker Price. She went on to win dozens of awards in architecture and design. Hadid’s designs are neo-futuristic, known for their fragmented geometry and powerful curving forms meant to envoke the chaos of modern life. Her most well known works include the MAXXI National Museum in Rome, the Bergisel Ski-Jump in Austria, the Bridge Pavilion in Spain, the Nuragic and Contemporary Art Museum in Cagliari, the J. S. Bach Pavilion in Manchester, as well as the Groninger Forum to name a few.

Hadid’s work does come with much criticism. It has been described as famously extravagant and “similar to colossal palaces long beloved of Soviet and similar regimes.” Many of her projects have been funded and sponsored by countries described as dictator states. Despite this criticism Hadid has kept working and defending her structures. In 2008 she was ranked 69th  on the Forbes list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” and in 2015 she became the first woman to win the RIBA Gold Medal.


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