Zaha Hadid, a name we architecture students always take with honor. She is often known as “The Queen of Curves”. In her architecture career, she has never used a 90° angle in any of her projects. Forbes magazine named her one of the 100 most powerful women in the world and the Japan Art Association presented her with the ‘Praemium Imperiale’. Her daring and unconventional buildings tiptoe a line between fantasy and reality, changing our understanding of what architecture can do. Her accomplishments were so constant that she garnered the greatest distinctions from civic, intellectual, and professional organizations all around the world. In 2004, she became the first woman architect to receive the most prestigious award, the “Pritzker Prize.” Each of her projects redefined what is possible in concrete, steel, and glass by fusing her unrelenting optimism for the future and confidence in the power of creativity with sophisticated design, material, and construction advances. What do you think? Why are Zaha Hadid’s buildings so extraordinary? What influenced her signature style? If you’d like this type of blog, then share it with your friends and tell us which topic you want to read next from architecture.
Zaha Hadid was born on October 31st, 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq. She belonged to a wealthy family. Her father was a well-known industrialist, and her mother was an artist from Mosul. After completing a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. She moved to London in 1972 to attend the Architectural Association (AA) School, where she received her Diploma in 1977. She taught at the AA School until 1987 and has held various chairs and guest professorships at institutions all over the world, including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and the Vienna University of Applied Arts. In 1979, she founded Zaha Hadid Architects in London.
Hadid’s first work engaged with the Russian avant-garde movement, notably Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin. Their work inspired her to adopt painting as a design tool, liberating herself from the conventions of architectural drawing, which she found to be limiting. For Hadid, there were no boundaries between architecture, art, and design. She revisited the work of Malibuk in a new, dynamic way, translating his geometric abstract art into actual buildings. During the early 1980s, Hadid introduced the architectural world to this new style through her radical and experimental designs, characterized by abstraction, fragmentation, and movement. Although widely published in architectural journals, these early ambitions were never realized. One of them included a plan for the Peak, a ledger center in Hong Kong. A horizontal skyscraper formed by different layers of shard-like panels appeared to hover at a diagonal down the hillside site. Although left incomplete, the project represented a significant breakthrough in Hadid’s career, bringing her international recognition.
Despite creating her architectural firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, it was not until 1993 that Hadid’s first project was realized. This was the Vitra fire station in Viola, Rhine, Germany. The world could finally see her imagination come to life. In a brick and mortar structure, visitors can see the superposition of razor-sharp geometric planes, fragmentation, dynamic stream of movement, and multi-viewpoint perspective.
Become an icon
Later, her work turned more curvaceous, fluid, and sculptural. But the fundamentals of the style expressing the Vitro Fire Station remained. She continued to distort form space in perspective, play with fragmenting and interpenetrating forms, and explore dynamism and movement in architecture.
With Hadid, it has always been about innovation and pushing boundaries. In one of her early interviews, Zaha said: “I almost believe there was such a thing as zero gravity.” I now believe that buildings can float. The digital age allowed her to create architectural designs that could float, slide, and move. Zaha Hadid’s work has been the focus of highly lauded exhibits at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2006, the Design Museum in London in 2007, the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg in 2015, and the Serpentine Galleries in London in 2016.
Hadid was one of the early adopters of a fully digitized 3D design process, which helped her intensify her experiments. Revolving around dynamism and fluidity, Hadid has faced many criticisms during her career, especially for her lack of interest in optimizing space and functionalism. Regardless, she refused to curb her digitization. She continued to create extravagant buildings that radically expanded the possibilities of architecture. Her last work before her death in 2016 was The Port House in Antwerp, Belgium.
Zaha Hadid created architectural shapes that no one thought possible. Through her extraordinary body of work, she has broadened the horizons of what is possible in architecture and inspired new architectural thinking and processes. Despite her death, Zaha Hadid’s vision lives on. Through her firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, she ensures that future generations will be able to enjoy her artistic vision for years to come.
In 2004, she became the first female architect to receive the most prestigious award, the “Pritzker Prize.” In 2010 and 2011, the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded her work the Stirling Prize, one of architecture’s highest honors. Other honors include UNESCO’s designation of Hadid as an Artist for Peace; the Republic of France’s award of the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres; and TIME magazine’s selection of her as the world’s top thinker in 2010. In 2012, Queen Elizabeth II named Zaha Hadid a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in February 2016, she earned the Royal Gold Medal, making her the first woman to be personally given the Royal Gold Medal.
- Ordrupgaard Art Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
- Vitra Fire Station, Weil am Rhein, Germany
- MAXXI Museum, Rome, Italy
- Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou, China
- Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza, Spain
What do you guys like about her? Tell me in the comment section.