Drawing power: an exhibition of early artworks by Zaha Hadid

Early drawings by Zaha Hadid are on view at Serpentine Sackler Gallery.
Early drawings by Zaha Hadid are on view at Serpentine Sackler Gallery. Courtesy of the Zaha Hadid Foundation
(Image credit: Hugo Glendinning)

Previously unseen drawings and notebooks belonging to the late Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) are on display at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London, giving an intimate insight into the formative years of the visionary architect and celebrating her enduring spirit for experimentation.

While studying architecture Hadid used calligraphic drawings to communicate her ideas. Inspired by the artistic styles of Malevich, Tatlin and Rodchenko she combined abstract geometric forms to create drawings which quickly became designs for self-contained dimensional buildings and worlds.

The calligraphic drawings combined with abstract geometric forms

(Image credit: Hugo Glendinning)

Read gallerist David Gill's tribute to Zaha Hadid here

The exhibition shows works from the 1970s to the early 1900s that she made before her first building, the Vitra Fire Station in Germany, opened in 1993, demonstrating the formative influences that can now be seen translated into architecture across the world.

Her designs for the Guggenheim’s 1992 exhibition ‘The Russian and Soviet Avant-Garde’ already showed a masterful grip on space and shape, seen in the dynamic slithers of crimson and scatterings of sculpted blocks spiralling across the canvas. Striking paintings for a project entitled ‘Visions for Madrid’ represent her attempt to arrest the city’s collapse into formlessness and organise the ’anarchic spread of development’.

The hafenstrasse development in Hamburg

Drawing for the Hafenstrasse Development in Hamburg, Germany, 1989

(Image credit: Hugo Glendinning)

The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, renovated and extended by Hadid’s practice in 2013, is a fitting location for this homage, which was curated in collaboration with Hadid herself prior to her untimely passing.

The Peak, Hong Kong, China

Left: Confetti ‘The Peak’, Hong Kong, China, 1982/1983. Courtesy of the Zaha Hadid Foundation. 

(Image credit: Hugo Glendinning)

 Wireframe sculpture perspective

 Wireframe sculpture perspective (2010) of ‘Victoria City Aerial', made by Zaha Hadid in 1988 in Berlin. The Zaha Hadid Foundation

(Image credit: Hugo Glendinning)

Drawing for the Vision for Madrid exhibition in Spain

Drawing for the ‘Vision for Madrid’ exhibition in Spain, 1992. The Zaha Hadid Foundation

(Image credit: Hugo Glendinning)

Installation view.

Installation view. Courtesy of the Zaha Hadid Foundation.

(Image credit: Hugo Glendinning)


Zaha Hadid’ is on view until 12 February 2017. For more information, visit the Serpentine Gallery website


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Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.