Zaha Hadid Speaks out about Austerity

via AN Blog

With the economic stability of Europe still uncertain, Dame Hadid has recently spoken out against ideas of austerity, warning the UK government that such a move would lead to poor quality projects for the country’s citizens.  Hadid told Kath Viner of The Guardian,  ”I think that austerity is used as a cliche because people don’t have ideas, they want to crib (old ones) to do bad stuff.  Schools, housing, hospitals – I think the government should invest in good housing.”   Hadid went on to explain, “”There needs to be investment. We need some sort of quality.  All the privileged can travel, see different worlds, not everyone can. I think it is important for people to have an interesting local nearby. Buildings need to do another job, enlighten people, space enlightens the same way as music art and technology.”

Hadid states that slashing budgets will lead to horrible developments such as the British buildings of the 1960s.  While it would be a detriment to cut all project budgets, if a metropolis’ restructuring plan implements stricter budgets in order to more evenly distribute funds for the good of the whole, such a budget can not be ignored.  Upon being asked about the cost of her projects, Hadid described her work as “not particularly expensive”; however, her latest Olympic Aquatic Center, which will be in high demand in a few weeks, was originally budgeted for 75 million British pounds and reached more than 250 million by completion date.

While we find Hadid’s words inspiring, we want to know your thoughts on if there can be a balance between implementing measures of austerity while still investing in quality architecture to shape cities and uplift society.


Cite: Cilento, Karen. "Zaha Hadid Speaks out about Austerity" 27 Jun 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +10

    She’s not exactly known for her value engineering..

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    But of course, it’s natural her reaction given the construction costs of her projects… she has to defend her income

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Our position as architects is ideologically jeopardized when it comes to questions of the economy. Of course we would like investment.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    But of course, it’s natural, she is only trying to defend her income given the project and construction costs of her projects

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +10

    Designing within set limits (i.e. context, program, building codes) leads to richer, more rounded solutions. I think deficit-cutting could push contemporary architects to explore new materials, construction methods, and set higher goals in terms of environmental efficiency and impact. a building’s capability to function productively on a relatively low monetary allowance could convince a federal client into procuring a larger investment during the construction process.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think It is a good use of being a public figure and speak of such things. Being observer and practice of personal work is two different things and little does it change the situation criticised by Dame Hadid.
    I think there are many great examples of housing projects across the Europe, especially in France, The Netherlands and Spain. And in this case not always you have to invent new systems or ways of managing projects for success, but just take the best of what is already done.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +7

    Who wouldn’t love to see more money being spent, but it’s hard to hear from Dame Hadid and keep a straight face. It IS fair to urge public clients to release designers to pursue the kind of exploration that MilesKozatch suggests. Too often we’re charged to deliver conventional buildings with less-than-conventional budgets.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    ridiculous. the notion that you can only do high-quality design with a nigh-unlimited budget is silly. constraints are often what give a design solution richness and focus.

    in the case of zaha hadid, i would submit that many of her designs would be more successful with a client that said, “no, you can’t do that. find a more economical way to express your idea.”

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Perhaps if people like Zaha paid their taxes in full like the rest of us and didnt exploit loopholes, the government wouldnt have to resort to austerity measures….

  10. Thumb up Thumb down -5

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    I wonder how many “Schools, housing, hospitals” could have been built, renovated, or better funded with the 175M GBP construction budget overrun.

  12. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    Particular times like these, times of crisis, are when architecture needs to evolve, change and adapt to the actual situation.Architecs should be able to reach both economy and beauty in their proyects.If there is not much money to be spent, you have to design according to it.

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I seriously doubt that may architects worldwide have the same vision on expenses. I’m not saying she’s a bad architect I just think she needs to cut back somehow, I’m pretty sure each of Zaha’s buildings could had been given to less expensive and with the same quality (or better) of design.

  14. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    But some star architects design some foolish star project in china and in middle east that we can call it waste of budget.

  15. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    I think mistakes made in 1960′s public architecture around the world will not be repeated just because governments have less money. Those lessons are still remembered well, they weren’t about cost, they were about ideals and reality. That part of her argument does not hold up.

  16. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    Let’s face it. Architecture is built by the rich. Every penny architects can get them to spend is a penny going to manufacturers, builders, and planners, ie the little people. So I support big budgets. It’s one way to pay back the little people for all the money the rich stole from their pensions over the last 30 years, if they’re lucky enough to even have one.

  17. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Good design should not be thought as to be dependent of extraordinary budgets like Mrs. Hadid seems to suggest. Like other readers have noted, I think austerity can lead to new and rich ideas in architectural theory and practice.
    Then again, when you are used to exceed a project’s budget by more than 340%, I can see why you would think this way.

  18. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    The wise people are the one who can look at the past mistakes (cf 60’s cheap development) and not reproduce them. Today we still have the result of choices that has been done 50 years ago!!!!!!!!! Architecture can’t be put in the austerity measure because it’s for many decades to go. And very often many generations have to support the bad choices.

  19. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    “…a balance between implementing measures of austerity while still investing in quality architecture to shape cities and uplift society.”
    Was there a “balance” achieved in the boom years just prior to this depression ? If the answer is yes, then society should be very well “uplifted” indeed.

  20. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Quality buildings are not building on cost. The impact of austerity should not deter the creativity of mankind, instead a stimulus for more creative solutions.

  21. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think such an economic crysis is welcomed every now and then. It’s like fasting, in cleans out the inefficient companies.
    So, if there is a crysis, small offices could beat bigger, well-established offices because the small ones are more flexible and more innovative.
    Also, because there are less projects competition is higher and the end-result in design has better quality.
    If everyone has a job, nobody needs to excel so there is no evolution.

  22. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    In the beginning of the last century A. Loos famously proclaimed: “Ornament is a crime”. A hundred years later we should rephrase that to: “Blobitecture is a crime”. And yet another popular saying by Mies should mean: LESS money for your own architectural extravagance IS MORE money for other people’s real needs.

    • Thumb up Thumb down -4

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      • Thumb up Thumb down 0

        You are totally right James. The West and Europe is crumbling down because people keep on believing in the old formulas, economically it is still the old Keynesian or Monetarist forumlas. In architecture it is the almost religious belief in Minimalism and Puritanism, which is the ultimate ornament, realistically the most expensive ornament. Instead of being more intelligent in our spendings the typical WASP reaction is a return to austerity….That’s a very old story in architecture…Roman vs Gothic, Baroque vs Classical, Expressionist vs Machinist, Suprematist vs Constructivist, Post Modern vs High Tech, Regionalist vs Deconstructivist….

      • Thumb up Thumb down +1

        @James: your incoherent rant misses the target completely. It’s a lot like the architecture of formalism – irrelevant, illogical, non sequitur and self-serving.
        You are right about one thing though – good architecture doesn’t come cheap. But ‘cheap’ as in ‘with less mental effort’. Formalistic design with its disregard to environment, context, budget, etc. is the easier way out, it’s intellectually cheap.

  23. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    “The conservatism in our profession, like yours and many others that troll around in these comment pages, are the most detrimental thing to our profession, not a handful of expensive buildings designed by Zaha.” boohoo.

  24. Thumb up Thumb down -1

    Cut in budgets calls for innovation and research into new materials and construction methods. At the national level, it calls for review of all those stringent requirements placed over the years by various concerned bodies that have become law. they all add on to excessive project costs.

  25. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Her architecture is not cost effective in all aspects.Recently her Architect Director Jim gave presentation of their projects. His comments regarding MEP coordination is not clear on their projects specially in designing complex functional project like Hospital. FORMs of all the projects are likely similar as dynamic & fluidity of spaces for almost all the countries & no consideration of culture, soil & environment. All the projects seem to be Machine Architecture in general speaking.

  26. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    I would like to write an article both about “austerity” context and Hadid’s way of observing the “topic(!)”. There are so many things to write, discuss. I will dig her phrases. I will also dig the braincells of the hypocrites and opportunists of the architecture realm (they are waiting silently for decades.) When i read these things i feel agitated, really…

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