Spotlight: Zaha Hadid

© Mary McCartney
© Mary McCartney

Pritzker prize-winning architect, fashion designer and artist Zaha Hadid (born 31 October 1950) has become one of the most recognizable faces of our field. Revered and denounced with equal aplomb for the sensuous curved forms for which she has become known, Hadid rose to prominence not solely through parametricism but by designing spaces to occupy geometries in new ways. Today, her work continues to push boundaries both creative and technological, and her fearless media presence has cemented her place in society as a woman who needs just one name: Zaha.

Vitra Fire Station. Image © Wojtek Gurak MAXXI Rome. Image ©  Iwan Baan Heydar Aliyev Center. Image © Hufton+Crow Library and Learning Centre University of Economics Vienna. Image © Roland Halbe +27

Heydar Aliyev Center. Image © Hufton+Crow
Heydar Aliyev Center. Image © Hufton+Crow

Zaha Hadid was born in 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq at a time when the city was seen as progressive and cosmopolitan. Her father, too, possessed that spirit and as a high-ranking Iraqi diplomat, serving as the Vice-President of the country's National Democratic Party and briefly as the Minister of Finance during Zaha's childhood. Her parents’ successes allowed the family to provide Zaha with a first-rate education and to travel throughout the world, a series of experiences that proved to have a profound impact on Hadid’s career interests. “When I was a child I traveled every summer with my parents, and my father made sure I went to every important building and museum in each city we visited. We’d go to new cities to learn about architecture,” she has said. “I think that’s what inspired my love of buildings.”[1]

Malevich's Tektonik, 1977. Image Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
Malevich's Tektonik, 1977. Image Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

After obtaining an undergraduate degree in mathematics from the American University in Beirut, Hadid moved to London in 1972 to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. It was here that she designed “Malevich’s Tektonik,” a hotel design based off of the paintings of Russian Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich, whose works strived to tap into an unseen fourth dimension of feeling those the juxtaposition of pure geometric forms. Her drawings of the project and subsequent paintings, experimented with layering and fragmentation, attaching program and structure to the forms outlined by the Suprematist works.

MAXXI Rome. Image ©  Iwan Baan
MAXXI Rome. Image © Iwan Baan

Upon graduation in 1977, Hadid became a partner at OMA, the firm founded by her former professors, Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis. After working on several widely disseminated and sometimes controversial projects such as the unbuilt Dutch Parliament building in the Hague, Hadid left to form her own practice, Zaha Hadid Architects. She soon received recognition for multiple other projects ultimately left unconstructed, such as "The Peak" in 1982 and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in 1994. By 2001, she had completed just one built work, the Vitra Fire Station, in 1993. Her radical forms took on the visual appearance of defying gravity, leading many clients and contractors to believe they simply couldn’t be built. But following the completion of the Bergisel Ski Jump, in Innsbruck, Austria, and the Richard and Lois Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Hadid was awarded the Pritzker Prize, the first to be given to a woman. This was a turning point in her career, as the increased attention she received led to more clients, higher budgets, and more completed works.

Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg. Image © Werner Huthmacher, Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg. Image © Werner Huthmacher, Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Soon after this turning point, a stylistic change also occurred. Always one to challenge accepted notions of architecture, the larger project scopes and larger budgets gave Hadid further means to push the boundaries of structural possibility. In her design for the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany, completed in 2005, the relational norms between horizontal and vertical planes were broken down, and entire surfaces were called upon to work as a unit to support the building. This kind of structure demanded composite mathematics previously too complex for engineering minds to solve at this scale. As a result, new software was designed along with the building, giving engineers lighting-fast answers to user input. This today is known as parametricism. As Alan Yentob explains in his documentary about Zaha Hadid for the BBC, “The Science Center in Volksberg marked a step change in her practice. It was a conceptual leap away from the jagged towards the elephantine, the snaking, the snail-like, made easier by what became known as parametricism.”[2]

Guangzhou Opera House. Image ©  Iwan Baan
Guangzhou Opera House. Image © Iwan Baan

Since this breakthrough, Hadid has become one of the most prevalent and renowned architects of the past 10 years. Projects have included the back-to-back Stirling Prize winners the MAXXI Museum in 2010 (perhaps the last example of Zaha’s earlier Suprematist style) and the Evelyn Grace Academy in 2011, as well as a bevy of critically-acclaimed projects, including: 2010's Guangzhou Opera House (a direct descendent of the Cardiff Bay design, according to The Guardian's Jonathan Glancey); 2011's London Aquatics Centre, and the Riverside Museum, winner of the European Museum Academy Micheletti Award 2012; 2012's Galaxy Soho in Beijing; and the 2014 "Design of the Year" Heydar Aliyev Center.

Heydar Aliyev Center. Image © Hufton+Crow
Heydar Aliyev Center. Image © Hufton+Crow

But Hadid remains a controversial figure, and these achievements have not come without some tension. ZHA’s designs for the National Stadium in Tokyo were scrapped over worries of ballooning costs. In 2014, the firm was repeatedly attacked in the media for the politics behind their designs, and Hadid was most notably criticized for a remark she made on the working conditions for construction workers in Qatar, culminating in Hadid filing a defamation lawsuit over the publication incorrect statements by the New York Review of Books.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones. Image © Werner Huthmacher
Messner Mountain Museum Corones. Image © Werner Huthmacher

Regardless of those criticisms, Zaha Hadid’s striking visual constructions and their influence on the world of architecture are undeniable. Perhaps her design intentions can best be summed up in her question: “There are 360 degrees. Why stick to one?”

Dominion Office Building. Image © Hufton+Crow
Dominion Office Building. Image © Hufton+Crow

See all of Zaha Hadid's completed works on ArchDaily via the thumbnails below, and further coverage via the links below those:

Vitra Fire Station. Image © Wojtek Gurak Galaxy Soho. Image ©  Iwan Baan Guangzhou Opera House. Image ©  Iwan Baan MAXXI Rome. Image ©  Iwan Baan London Aquatics Centre. Image © Hufton+Crow Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. Image © Paul Warchol Evelyn Grace Academy. Image © Luke Hayes Riverside Museum. Image © Hufton+Crow Dongdaemun Design Plaza. Image © Virgile Simon Bertrand Issam Fares Institute – American University of Beirut. Image © Hufton+Crow Heydar Aliyev Center. Image © Hufton+Crow Jockey Club Innovation Tower. Image © Virgile Simon Bertrand CMA CGM Headquarters. Image © Hufton+Crow The Serpentine Sackler Gallery. Image © Luke Hayes Sheikh Zayed Bridge. Image © Hufton+Crow Dominion Office Building. Image © Hufton+Crow Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion. Image © Stefan Tuchila ROCA London Gallery. Image Courtesy of ROCA Burnham Pavilion. Image © Michelle Litvin Pierres Vives. Image © Helene Binet Messner Mountain Museum Corones. Image © Werner Huthmacher Tondonia Winery Pavilion The Investcorp Building. Image © Luke Hayes Library and Learning Centre University of Economics Vienna. Image © Roland Halbe +27

RIBA Awards 2016 Royal Gold Medal to Zaha Hadid

RIBA Stirling Prize 2010: MAXXI Museum / Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid wins 2011 RIBA Stirling Prize

3 New Films Showcase 7 Architects Redefining the Role of Women in Architecture

Zaha Hadid Named "New Londoner of the Year"

London Design Museum's Design of the Year: Heydar Aliyev Center / Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid's Wangjing SOHO Wins Emporis Skyscraper Award

Zaha Hadid Wins Veuve Cliquot Business Women Award

Zaha Hadid Receives Aenne Burda Award for Creative Leadership

Riverside Museum Wins European Museum Academy Micheletti Award 2012 / Zaha Hadid Architects

Video: Zaha Hadid discusses Challenges in Architecture

Parametric Space / Zaha Hadid Architects, Kollision, CAVI, Wahlberg

References:

  1. Christina Bohnstengel, "Designing the World," Port Shopping Spree, June 3rd 2015.
  2. "Zaha Hadid: Who Dares Wins," presented by Alan Yentob, directed by Roger Parsons (BBC, 2013).

Cite: Patrick Lynch. "Spotlight: Zaha Hadid" 31 Oct 2015. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/288566/happy-birthday-zaha-hadid/>