Farewell to Zaha Hadid, the grand dame of architecture (1950–2016)
Dame Zaha Hadid, DBE passed away in Miami in the early hours of Thursday, 31 March.
Few architects defined an era like Hadid did. Born in Baghdad in 1950 she began her journey in architecture at the Architectural Association in London in 1972, following a degree in mathematics at the American University of Beirut.
Her work stood out for its innovative approach, mesmerising curves and beauty, that was simultaneously poetic and revolutionary. Her unique way of form-making was like nothing the architecture world had seen before and inspired a whole generation of architects. Her explorations in unexpected, dynamic shapes and innovative technologies transformed our perceptions of what architecture should look like and raised the bar for many who followed.
Her ground-breaking practice kicked off with theoretical works such as The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), a competition that sadly never came to be built; the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986); and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994). Her own practice, Zaha Hadid Architects, was set up soon after graduation, in 1979, following a two-year period at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA).
Her first built project was the fairly modest (in size, at least) Vitra Fira Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany, completed in 1993. Once she started building, the world was charmed and commissions kept coming in. The list is long, notable buildings including the MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (2009); the celebrated London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011); and the more recent Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku (2013).
Her work was as forward-thinking and thought provoking as it is timeless. 'Her work, though full of form, style and unstoppable mannerism, possesses a quality that some of us might refer to as an impeccable "eye" – which we would claim is a fundamental in the consideration of special architecture and is rarely satisfied by mere "fashion",' said Sir Peter Cook on the occasion of her 2016 RIBA Royal Gold Medal win.
Hadid was also widely recognised as one of the greatest female architects practicing internationally. And this is only one of the myriad ways her work stands out – for her distinctions were many. A 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate (the first woman ever to receive the honour), she was also awarded the RIBA Stirling Prize twice, alongside more accolades in the UK and abroad. She was also one of the first ever Wallpaper* guest editors, lending her design charisma to our pages in 2008’s October issue.