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Architect of the Month – Dame Zaha Hadid (1950 - 2016)

Blog Image 800x650 Architect Of Month  Zaha Hadid

Andrew Kingsley


I don't think that architecture is only about shelter, is only about a very simple enclosure. It should be able to excite you, to calm you, to make you think.

Zaha Hadid

This October, we remember Zaha Hadid. Known as the "Queen of the Curve" she died of a heart attack in 2016, aged just 65.

Her constructions seem to defy gravity, logic, and all geometric constraints. Most look like a piece of abstract art. Sometimes fluid, sometimes an organic plant-like structure. Each design was and is extraordinary. 

I have always appreciated those who dare to experiment with materials and proportions. There are 360 degrees, why stick to one?

Zaha Hadid

Hadid was awarded some of the highest awards in architecture, including the Pritzker Prize in 2004, the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011 and RIBA Gold Medal in 2015.

What makes her achievements even more incredible was the fact she broke through in an industry dominated by men. She left a legacy across the globe for creating futuristic, synchronistic buildings that inspire and dazzle.


Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950 to a wealthy family. She studied maths at the American University in Beirut before moving to London to study at the Architectural Association in 1972. From the beginning, her work was outstanding and rebellious. She was heavily influenced by Russian Constructivists and Suprematists who had futuristic views of architecture.


“We called her the inventor of the 89 degrees. Nothing was ever at 90 degrees. She had a spectacular vision. All the buildings were exploding into tiny little pieces.“ Elia Zenghelis


After she graduated in 1977, she went to work for her former professors, Koolhaas and Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.


Koolhaus introduced her to architectural engineer Peter Rice (designer of the Centre Pompidou in Paris), who encouraged her. After becoming a British citizen, she opened her own architectural firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, in London in 1980.


Her work did spark controversy and the architecture world initially thought that she was only capable of creating unbuildable designs. But all that changed when she won a competition to design the Peak Leisure Club in Hong Kong in 1983. It was an incredible abstract, horizontal skyscraper that exploded onto the side of a mountain, and it launched her career.


“You have a lot of things in there that became important later – distinctive horizontal layers, the idea of floating, this notion of defying gravity. Hong Kong was already a very congested, jam-packed, crowded city, and this is an answer to an extreme urban condition, an answer to a constraint. Often radical architecture does not only grow out of a sense of desire for experimentation but it's also go to with this idea of a constraint” Hans Ulrich Obrist (Zolima CityMag)


Despite her winning design for the Cardiff Opera house being scrapped (the plans were superseded by the Wales Millennium Centre), she went on to make the Vitra Fire Station in Germany in 1993, a complex billed as “perhaps the most famous fire station in the world” (Architectural Review) which was made up of shards and intersecting planes.


"She had somehow found a way to manifest in physical form the seemingly impossible perspectives of floating elements and skewed angles that she had captured in her fantasy. It was an eye-opening experience that something so wildly out of your imagination could actually be so perfectly materialised in the real world.” Bjarke Ingels (

In the UK, her work can be seen in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens, the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton and the London Aquatics Centre which was used in the 2012 Olympics.

Some of Zaha Hadid’s notable works

  • The Peak, Hong Kong (1982)
  • The Vitra Fire Station, Weil am Rhen (1994)
  • Zaragoza Bridge Pavillion, Spain (2008)
  • The Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany (2005)
  • MAXXI-National Museum of the 21st Century Arts in Rome (2010), Winner of the Stirling Prize
  • Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (2013)
  • London Aquatic Centre, London (2011)
  • Guangzhou Opera House, China (2010)
  • The Evelyn Grace Academy, London (2010)
  • Riverside Museum, Glasgow (2011)
  • Heydar Aliyev Centre in Azerbaijan (2012)
  • Port Authority, Antwerp, Belgium (2016)
  • Al Wakrah Stadium, Qatar (2018)

Her last ever design was the Leeza Soho Tower in Shanghai, which is due to open in 2018.,

You have to really believe not only in yourself; you have to believe that the world is actually worth your sacrifices.

Zaha Hadid


Find out more about Zaha Hadid and her designs at Architectural Digest.

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