Zaha Hadid was an British-Iraqi architect recognised for her radical and innovative designs that left a lasting influence on the late 20th- and early 21st-century architecture.Read More
Upon graduating with a degree in mathematics from the American University of Beirut, Zaha Hadid moved to London in 1972 to attend the Architectural Association. There, she studied under the influential architects Elia Zenghelis and Rem Koolhaas; they later worked together at Rotterdam's Office for Metropolitan Architecture. In 1979, Hadid established her own firm in London: Zaha Hadid Architects.
The sense of mobility, ambitious scale, and geometric fragmentation that characterise Zaha Hadid's designs were visible from her early projects, such as The Peak Leisure Club (1982–1983). Conceived for a private club in Hong Kong, Hadid's plans show a horizontal building mass of layers and fragmented parts that appears to be floating across the landscape.
Hadid's design for The Peak, however, was never realised. A number of her projects from the 1980s and 1990s, such as the Cardiff Bay Opera House (1994–1996), met a similar fate due to financial difficulties or disapproval of what was criticised as being overly avantgarde. Completed in 1993, the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, was the first of Zaha Hadid's major projects to be built. Featuring layered walls and an exterior consisting of sharp angles, the building has been likened to a bird in flight.
The Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (1997–2003) in Cincinnati was another project that demonstrated Hadid's ambitions for architectural possibilities and public spaces. The glass facade of the building invites the pedestrians inside, where walls incline at soft angles to enable a fluid navigation of the interior space.
Zaha Hadid's deconstructivist approach to architectural designs were influenced by Russian Suprematists, such as Kazimir Malevich, and Constructivists, such as Alexander Rodchenko. In 1988, her designs were featured in the group exhibition Deconstructivist Architecture, organised by New York's Museum of Modern Art, alongside Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, and Bernard Tschumi, among others. However, Hadid did not consider her projects to be works of art, and stressed that architecture and art had different roles at a talk given at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London, in 2016.
Zaha Hadid was the winner of the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize for two consecutive years—2010 and 2011. The MAXXI Museum of XXI Century Arts, for which she was awarded the Prize in 2010, was completed in 2009 in Rome and is a multi-tiered structure that emphasised a fluid spatiality and featured flowing ramps. Evelyn Grace Academy, which followed a year later in London and won her the Prize for the second time, emphasised both diversity and unity to accommodate the four schools located within the academy.
Zaha Hadid's later projects increasingly show softer forms and curves. London Aquatics Centre, built for the 2012 Olympics, has an undulating roof that evokes the movement of water; the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, completed in the same year, features an exterior of bends and a similar sense of fluidity.
Zaha Hadid's projects have been, at times, subjects of controversy. In 2014, the construction of the Heydar Aliyev Center was met with public outcry amidst reports of forced eviction. In the following year, Japan cancelled the architect's proposal for the Tokyo Stadium for the 2020 Olympics, which her firm had won in an international competition, following protests from the public and Japanese architects over claims of unsustainability and excessive costs.
A prolific architect and polymath, Zaha Hadid also produced drawings, paintings, and product designs. Her work has been exhibited in major museums shows, such as the retrospective exhibition Zaha Hadid (2006) at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and Zaha Hadid: Form in Motion (2011): an exhibition of her furniture, decorative art, jewellery, and footwear designs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Hadid maintained a significant relationship with the Serpentine Galleries of London, becoming a trustee in 1996 and designing the Serpentine Pavilion in 2000. In 2016, the posthumous exhibition Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings opened at the Serpentine North Gallery, which the architect had designed three years prior, and featured her rarely seen drawings, paintings, and private notebooks.
In 2004, Zaha Hadid became the first female architect to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. She was awarded a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012, and received the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 2016. That year, when Hadid died unexpectedly from a heart attack while being treated for bronchitis, she had been working on over 30 projects. These have been continued by ZHA under the direction of Patrik Schumacher: an architect and Hadid's collaborator for almost three decades.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021
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