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Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid is an Iraqi-British architect. The buildings of the designer are distinctively neofuturistic, characterised by the “powerful, curving forms of her elongated structures”with “multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry to evoke the chaos of modern life”. She is currently professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna in Austria.
Biography: the woman before the myth
Hadid was born on 31 October 1950 in Baghdad. She grew up in one of Baghdad’s first Bauhaus-inspired buildings during an era in which “modernism connoted glamour and progressive thinking” in the Middle East.
She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, where she met Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis, and Bernard Tschumi. She worked for her former professors, Koolhaas and Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, in Rotterdam, the Netherlands; she became a partner in 1977. Through her association with Koolhaas, she met Peter Rice, the engineer who gave her support and encouragement early on at a time when her work seemed difficult. In 1980, she established her own London-based practice. During the 1980s, she also taught at the Architectural Association.
Background & Realizations: the projects
Hadid has also undertaken 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. In the same year, she also collaborated with the brassware manufacturer Triflow Concepts to produce two new designs in her signature parametric architectural style.
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In 2007, Hadid designed the Moon System Sofa for leading Italian furniture manufacturer B&B Italia.
In 2013, Hadid designed Liquid Glacial, 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. Prototype Liquid Glacial Table | Zaha Hadid at David Gill Galleries.
The Most Iconic Projects
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 finalized on 2 February 2012, at a ceremony in London. This will be her first project in her native Iraq. Other work includes 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.
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. She completed a new building for Evelyn Grace Academy in London in 2010.
Talent is a heritage
Hadid has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where she was the Kenzo Tange Professorship and the Sullivan Chair at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture. She also 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 the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at the Yale School of Architecture. From 2000 on, Hadid has been a guest professor at The University of Applied Arts – Vienna, in the Zaha Hadid Master Class Vertical-Studio.
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 has been on the board of trustees of The Architecture Foundation. She is currently professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna in Austria.
The Creator’s Choice
Hadid’s architectural language has been described as “famously extravagant” with many of her projects sponsored by “dictator states”. 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”. 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.
As the architect of a distinctive 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 also said that she believed it was a problem for the Qatari government to resolve.
“I have nothing to do with the workers,” said Hadid. “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, Hadid 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.”
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. 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 “…work 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.
Critics mumbled that she had no sense of context or locality, preferring to crash land photogenic concepts whose function was not to serve her client’s needs, but to advertise herself as a ‘global architect’. Her fabulous forms were always eye-catching, but often difficult to build. And, almost always, so neglectful was she of tectonic practicalities that her buildings went deliriously over budget. The 2012 Olympics Aquatics Centre was described by an official as a ‘joke’. For the same reason of doubling cost, a fatigued PM of Japan Shinzo Abe has just canned her design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
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The Tokyo stadium resembled a monstrous acrylic cycling helmet. Why? Two of the grand old men of Japanese architecture, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki, damned her design as monstrous and wasteful: conceived with neither respect nor reference to its locality. That, of course, was almost certainly her intention. Global architects such as Hadid do not want to respect their client or his site, but to venerate themselves.
Top Projects Gallery