On March 31st, 2016 the world lost one of the foremost architects and pioneers in the industry. Zada Hadid was just 65 years old when she passed away from a heart attack, but she managed to live an extraordinary life that made her one of the most unique architects who ever lived.
The work of Zaha Hadid over her lifetime was truly remarkable. She brought a zest for style and beauty that was unlike anything seen before in the design of buildings. Her accomplishments are many and her followers a growing part of the architect community. What impressed me most about her work was the fearlessness of her work in abandoning the standard geometry of architecture to create sweeping, fluid visions that reflects modern life.
Her story is one that has garnered considerable interest and her accomplishments will inspire architects for many years to come.
The Story of Zaha Hadid
Born on October 31st, 1950 into an upper-class Muslim family in Baghdad, Iraq, Zaha’s father was a very wealthy industrialist who came from Mosul and co-founded the al-Ahali group in 1932. He later co-founded the National Democratic Party in Iraq while her mother was a noted artist who had travelled abroad. Perhaps it was the combination of influences that inspired Zaha to pursue her own future as an architect.
Like her parents, Zaha also saw much of the world in her younger days, studying mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to London in 1972 and studying at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. Her talents were immediately noticed after her graduation by her now former professors. She worked for them in the Office of Metropolitan Architecture located in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Although she faced many challenges as a woman in a male-dominated field, her talents were encouraged by those like Rem Koolhaas and Peter Rice, an engineer who helped guide her career and provide some of the confidence needed for her to succeed.
Zaha’s Career Takes Off
Thanks to the support she receive, but mostly through her own drive and determination, Zaha established her own architecture practice in London in 1980 and over the next several years started earning more respect and admiration for her work. However, it was the exhibition called “Deconstructivism in Architecture” in 1988 that really broke out her work. A submission of some of her drawings were put on display at the New York Museum of Modern Art during the exhibition which garnered considerable acclaim for the beauty, power, and originality of her designs.
By this time, Zaha had taught at the Harvard Graduate School of design and achieved a Kenzo Tange Professorship in the Architectural Association. By the turn of the 1990s, her teaching career in the field of architecture was growing by leaps and bounds thanks to serving as a guest professor at various universities around the world
Zaha’s Work Comes to Life
At this point, Zaha began doing various high profile work that garnered her considerable attention and fame thanks to her vibrant, beautiful designs that captured the imagination of all those who saw what she could accomplish. She created the notable Mind Zone at the Millennium Dome in London and showed her hand at furniture design at Home House, a private members club located in Marylebone, and even crafted a design for a three-wheeled vehicle, the Z.Car which is hydrogen powered. In addition, Zaha impressed everyone with her fashion designs as part of her association with Locoste, a clothing brand. There was seemingly no limit to her work or incredible designs that flowed across different landscapes. Her vibrant imagination combined with her extensive training in mathematics to make her bold, fierce designs a reality. While she enjoyed considerable success in these fields, it was architecture that ultimately gave her the best platform of her imagination.
The Works of Zaha Hadid
There are numerous projects that were completed in her lifetime as well as ongoing projects that will be developed from her designs over the next several years. Here is a partial list of some of the most inspired and important works from Zaha Hadid.
• Bergisel Ski Jump, Innsbruck, Austria
• Hotel Puerta America, Madrid, Spain
• BMW Central Building, Leipzig Germany
• Vitra Fire Station, Weil am Rhein, Germany
• Ordrupgaard Annex, Copenhagen, Denmark
• Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut, Lebanon
• Maggie’s Centres, Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy, Scotland
• Chanel Mobile Art Pavilion
• R. Lopez De Heredia Wine Pavilion, Haro, La Rioja, Spain
• Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza, Spain
• London Aquatics Centre, 2012 Summer Olympics, London, England
• Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
• Pierresvives, Montpellier, France
• Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China
• MAXXI: National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome, Italy
• CMA CGM Tower, Marseilles, France
• Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
• Library and Learning Center, Vienna University of Economics and Business
• Roca London Gallery, London, England
• Evelyn Grace Academy, Brixton, London, England
• Mandarin Oriental, Dellis Cay, Turks & Caicos Islands
• King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
• Citylife Office Tower, Milan, Italy
• Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Hong Kong
• Napoli Afragola Railway Station, Italy
• Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul, South Korea
• Salerno Maritime Terminal, Salerno, Italy
Zaha’a remarkable wealth of designs is only partially complete as a number of them that are still being constructed or pending remain to be brought into this world. However, for her great gifts at architecture, there are five personal favorites of mine that stand out from the rest.
Five of My Favorite Zaha Works
Of the many works that she accomplished in her lifetime, there are some that rank as the most remarkable of her career and inspiration for architects to think outside the box when it comes to fashioning designs. Her greatest strength was the ability to channel her interior vision into reality and creating something that had never been seen before. Plus, far from being impractical or simply odd designs, Zaha managed to make them leap to life in a manner that was both dreamlike and grounded in reality. They defied the standards of our time, yet they became inspirations for architects of today and tomorrow to learn and reach into their own interior visions that truly make them special.
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan: While much of Zaha’s work is defined by straight and angular lines, this particular building is noted for its curved, wave-like appearance. With sections that seem to bubble up like a wave forming on the ocean, this remarkable design is one that inspires real beauty. There is a pleasant, clean appearance to this incredible design that is certainly one of her most eye-catching.
Library and Learning Center, Vienna, Austria: Another astounding work, this one seems to leap right from a dream as most of the building appears to be stacks or layers built from the ground up to carry the large section that almost teeters over the side. Striking, beautiful, and marvelous to behold, this is certainly one of the most stunning works from Zaha’s vivid imagination.
Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg, Germany: Sharp angles and bold design are a part of Zaha’s trait when it comes to architectural originality and this work follows those lines beautifully. It truly stands out for its unique shape and vibrant design.
Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland: The wave-like structure of the walls that help make up this museum stand as a testament to Zaha’s own interior vision and making it a reality. The result is a sweeping accomplishment that is simply one of the most breathtaking of her career.
Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati, Ohio: Completed in 2003, this particular work is very inspiring not only because it is Zaha Hadid’s first design constructed in the United States, but also because of the simple, unique nature of the building itself. It is a work of art thank to the unique structures that create separate environments within a single, uniform design. This work is very special and brought out Zaha’s talent for her dream-like vision grounded in mathematical reality as it flows evenly.
All of these works and the many more that bless the Earth came from her active imagination that was grounded in mathematical reality. However, it must be noted that new, more flexible materials and improved construction techniques paved the way for many of her visions to become reality. While they must be recognized for the contribution to the success of Zaha’s designs, it was still her vibrant imagination that brought them into our world.
We lost Zaha Hadid at the way-too-young age of 65 from a sudden heart attack as she was being treated in a Miami hospital. However, while she is no longer on this Earth to create even more of her marvelous works, what she has accomplished in terms of being a Muslim woman who became a pioneer in the field of architecture will stand the test of time.