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Queen of Curves: Architect Dame Zaha Hadid


Zaha HadidDame Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born British architect, whose soaring structures left a mark on skylines and imaginations around the world and in the process reshaped architecture for the modern age, died in Miami on 31st March 2016. She was 65. Zaha Hadid had contracted bronchitis and suffered a sudden heart attack while being treated in the hospital. She became the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize (Architecture’s Nobel) in 2004. She received the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 2015 she became the first woman to be awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA Gold Medal.

QUEEN OF CURVES head PictureZaha Hadid was born on 31st October 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq. Her father, Muhammad al-Hajj Husayn Hadid, was a wealthy industrialist from Mosul, Iraq. Her mother, Wajiha al-Sabunji, was a keen artist from Mosul. In the 1960s she attended boarding schools in England and Switzerland. Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in 1972.There she met Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis, and Bernard Tschumi. She worked for her former professors, Koolhaas and Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, in Rotterdam, becoming a partner in 1977. Through her association with Koolhaas, she met Peter Rice, the engineer who gave her support and encouragement early on at a time when her work seemed difficult. In 1980, she established her own London-based practice.

Ms. Hadid’s intuitions led her, among other directions, toward the Russian avant-garde, and its leaders: Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich. Her graduation project at the Architectural Assocation, called Malevich’s Tectonik, was a proposal for a hotel atop Hungerford Bridge over the Thames. Ms. Hadid’s concept was a jagged, gravity-defying composition of beams and floating shards cantilevered into the rock face. It encapsulated the 1980s movement called Deconstructivism. During these years Ms. Hadid turned out an astonishing, super-refined variety of futuristic drawings and paintings. She used her art to test spatial ideas that she couldn’t yet make concrete without the aid of computer algorithms.

A celebrated yet divisive architect, Zaha Hidid designs were commissioned by countries across the world including the US, China and Switzerland. She was not just a rock star and a designer of spectacles. She also liberated architectural geometry, giving it a whole new expressive identity. Geometry became, in her hands, a vehicle for unprecedented and eye-popping new spaces but also for emotional ambiguity. Her buildings elevated uncertainty to an art, conveyed in the odd ways one entered and moved through those buildings and in the questions her structures raised about how they were supported. Her work, with its formal fluidity — also implying mobility, speed, freedom — spoke to a worldview widely shared by a younger generation. Strikingly, Ms. Hadid never allowed herself or her work to be pigeonholed by her background or her gender. Architecture was architecture: it had its own reasoning and trajectory. And she was one of a kind, a path breaker.

Her partner at Zaha Hadid Architects, Patrik Schumacher, played an instrumental and collaborative role in her career. Mr. Schumacher coined the term parametricism to encompass the computer-based approach that helped the firm’s most extravagant concepts become reality. Ms. Hadid called “an organic language of architecture, based on these new tools, which allow us to integrate highly complex forms into a fluid and seamless whole.” Robert A.M. Stern, the dean of the Yale Architecture School, where Ms. Hadid was a visiting professor, described her legacy as “an architecture that I could never have imagined, much less imagined getting built.” He remembered her as “the master of a cutting remark about another architect’s work, but also astonishingly warm, generous and radiant,” he said. “She was like the sun.” Amale Andraos, the dean of Columbia University’s architecture school said that “She was bigger than life, a force of nature, she was a pioneer.”

Awards, Nominations and Recognitions

In 2002, Hadid won the international design competition to design Singapore’s one-north master plan. In 2004, Hadid became the first female and first Muslim recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In 2005, her design won the competition for the new city casino of Basel, Switzerland. In 2006, she was honoured with a retrospective spanning her entire work at the Guggenheim Museum in New York; that year she also received an Honorary Degree from the American University of Beirut.

In 2008, she ranked 69th on the Forbes list of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women”.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaha_Hadid – cite_note-57 In 2010, she was named by Time as an influential thinker in the 2010 TIME 100 issue. In 2010, the British magazine New Statesman listed Zaha Hadid at number 42 in their annual survey of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures 2010”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaha_Hadid – cite_note-htanna-59Hadid was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to architecture.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaha_Hadid – cite_note-60 Three years later, she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. She won the Stirling Prize two years running: in 2010, for one of her most celebrated works, the Maxxi in Rome, and in 2011 for the Evelyn Grace Academy, a Z shaped school in Brixton, London. She is also the designer of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park in Seoul, South Korea, which was the centerpiece of the festivities for the city’s designation as World Design Capital 2010.

Other Awards and Honours

–              1982: Gold Medal Architectural Design, British Architecture for 59 Eaton Place, London

–              1994: Erich Schelling Architecture Award

–              2001: Equerre d’argent Prize, special mention

–              2002: Austrian State Prize for Architecture for Bergiselschanze

–              2003: European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture for the Strasbourg tramway terminus and car park in Hoenheim, France

–              2003: Commander of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to architecture

–              2004: Pritzker Prize

–              2005: Austrian Decoration for Science and Art

–              2005: German Architecture Prize for the central building of the BMW plant in Leipzig

–              2005: Designer of the Year Award for Design Miami

–              2005: RIBA European Award for BMW Central Building

–              2006: RIBA European Award for Phaeno Science Centrehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaha_Hadid – cite_note-RIBA_European_Awards-71

–              2007: Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture

–              2008: RIBA European Award for Nordpark Cable Railway

–              2009: Praemium Imperiale

–              2010: RIBA European Award for MAXXI

–              2012: Jane Drew Prize for her “outstanding contribution to the status of women in architecture”

–              2012: Jury member for the awarding of the Pritzker Prize to Wang Shu in Los Angeles, CA.

–              2013: 41st Winner of the Veuve Clicquot UK Business Woman Award.

–              2013: Elected international member, American Philosophical Society

–              2014: Design Museum Design of the Year Award, for Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre.

–              2015: Services to Science and Engineering award at the British Muslim Awards.

Zaha Hadid’s Most Striking Designs

Ms. Hadid’s ambitious architecture spanned the whole globe. Some of her most striking design projects are summarized as below:

Queen of Curves 1Vitra fire station, Weil am Rhein (1994)

Hadid’s first completed project – a complex construction of tilted and clashing planes – looks very different from her later, organic designs. It inspired a design of typically outsized imagination: a winged composition, all sharp angles and protrusions. Architects were impressed. “A clear demonstration of the rhetorical power of architecture – and the possibility of achieving impressive effects with modest means,” said the Architectural Review, admiring the “gestural, pointy porch that yells ‘Emergency!” Its daring geometries proved too much for the firemen, who moved out, leaving the building to become an events space.

Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati (2003)

When Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, a relatively modest project, opened in 2003, Herbert Muschamp, then architecture critic for The New York Times, declared it “the most important American building to be completed since the end of the Cold War.” The center can, he said, “be experienced as an exercise in heightening the mind-body connection.”

Phaeno science centre, Wolfsburg (2005)

Queen of Curves 2The Phaeno science centre “condenses a lot of the things that have been in my work for a long, long time”, Hadid said, while a critic described it as “an astonishing, exhilarating concrete and steel vortex of a building – somewhere you go to experience the operatic power of space”. Raised on fat concrete cones, it is a cathedral of jagged angles, looming curves, fractured planes and daring protrusions, its 154 metre length seeming to hover in the air.

Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza (2008)

Queen of Curves 3Inspired by gladioli and the waterway beneath it, Hadid’s first completed bridge throws 280 metres of fibre-glass reinforced concrete across the river Ebro. Half pedestrian walkway, half exhibition area, the covered structure was built to link the La Almozara neighbourhood to the site of the 2008 Zaragoza Expo. “A magnificent and truly ennobling way to cross a river on foot,” was the Guardian’s verdict.

Evelyn Grace Academy, London (2008)

This £36m Z-shaped school in Brixton, south London – with a running track tunnelling right through it and out the other side – beat another hot favourite to win the Stirling Prize. Given that the hot favourite was the Olympic velodrome, this was the year when Hadid – whose office was a former school – finally felt she was being acknowledged in Britain.

Queen of Curves 4

Queen of Curves 5Guangzhou opera house, Guangzhou (2010)

“Like pebbles in a stream smoothed by erosion,” was how Hadid herself described this £130m building, which was designed to blend in perfectly with its riverside setting. Regarded as one of the most alluring opera houses ever built, it boasted a folded, flowing glass structure that let light flood in. The creation was inaugurated with the first ever performance in China of Puccini’s Turandot, a controversial opera in the country. But the “erosion” was a little more severe than planned: a year after the building opened, cladding panels were already falling off.

Riverside museum, Glasgow (2011)

Queen of Curves 6Hadid’s first major building in Britain, dubbed “Glasgow’s Guggenheim” and winner of the 2013 European museum of the year award. Beneath a stunning zinc-clad zigzag roof, a 36m-high glazed frontage overlooks the river Clyde. The steel-framed structure, built on the site of an old shipyard, houses a column-free, 7,000 square metre exhibition space. Costing £74m, it has been criticised for its display strategy – in which many exhibits are placed high up on the wall too far from view.

London aquatics centre, Stratford (2012)

Queen of Curves 7The “most jaw-dropping municipal swimming pool in the world”, according to the Guardian. Originally built for the 2012 Olympics at a cost of £269m, this cathedral-like space seats houses two 50-metre pools and seats for 2,500 spectators. Its wave of a roof rests on just three concrete supports, and huge windows let the light flood in.

Heydar Aliyev cultural center, Baku (2012)

Queen of Curves 8All swooping curves and flowing space, this 619,000-square-foot complex in the capital of Azerbaijan won the London Design Museum award in 2014; one judge called it “as pure and sexy as Marilyn’s blown skirt”. The softly folded roof shelters a museum, an auditorium and a multi-purpose hall. Reports put the cost at $250m. Human rights groups have criticised the project for seeing families forcibly evicted from their homes on the site.

Queen of Curves 9Galaxy Soho, Beijing (2012)

Possibly the most space-age-looking of all Hadid’s works, this spooling creation comprises four domed structures linked by a ravishing mixture of bridges and platforms flowing around what can only be called a central canyon. Like a smoothed off mille-feuille, the 18-storey retail, office and entertainment colossus boasts interior courts intended to reflect traditional Chinese architecture – although it has been criticised by local heritage groups for flattening an area of historic hutongs.


–              http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/01/arts/design/zaha-hadid-architect-dies.html?_r=1

–              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zaha_Hadid

–              http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/mar/31/zaha-hadid-10-best-buildings-in-pictures

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