Dame Zaha Hadid, DBE
1950 – 2016
Dame Zaha Hadid was one of the world’s true visionaries. Very few architects would have the drive and direction to achieve the contribution to world architecture evidenced by Zaha’s output. We at the NDA are deeply saddened by her sudden and untimely death aged 65.
For this month’s ‘Theme of the Month’ we will look at the buildings, interiors, furniture, lighting, tableware and fashion accessories that have been generated by her office. The text is provided by her peers and serves as a reminder of the respect and sometimes controversy that surrounded this unique and gifted woman. RIP Dame Zaha, you will be missed.
Where it all began: the proposal for ‘The Peak Leisure Club’, Hong Kong 1982-3
For this project Zaha presented a series of large scale oil paintings rather than the usual architectural drawings and models
In 1982-3 she produced her competition-winning designs for the Peak, a leisure club in Hong Kong, with a project of breathtaking confidence, daring and individuality. It was a series of angular planes, without visible means of support, which translated the geology of the mountain on which they were sited into seemingly airborne geometry. They were represented with drawings and paintings which were themselves mesmerising, and made the congested city, the landscape and her proposal into a single dynamic, semi-abstract composition. The young architect (not indeed quite an architect, as she hadn’t completed her professional qualifications) had created an extraordinary consistency and originality of intent, design and representation.
—Rowan Moore; The Guardian, Sunday 3 April 2016
Vitra Fire Station, Weil am Rhein 1993. Her first built project and the one that launched her career
When she won the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize for the first time in 2010, it was for Maxxi. When she won it for the second time the following year it was for a British project – the Evelyn Grace Academy, a stylised zig-zag of steel and glass in Brixton, south London, and when she was appointed DBE in 2012, it seemed that Zaha Hadid had finally “arrived”.
Yet she continued to see herself as an outsider. As recently as February this year, when she featured as a castaway on Desert Island Discs, she claimed that she had lost work because “I’m a woman, which is a problem to many people; I’m a foreigner, another big problem; and my work is not normative.” Intense and combative, with a liking for Issey Miyake black suits worn over killer heels and a tendency to use words like “historicism” and “adjacency”, there was something more than a little intimidating about Zaha Hadid.
Stories abounded of her grandeur, including an occasion when she dispatched an assistant from the Venice Architecture Biennale to her London flat to collect the shoes she wanted to wear for a party. When, last September, she became the first woman to win the Royal Gold Medal in her own right, the citation went so far as to describe her as a “scary” character in the style of John McEnroe.
—The Telegraph, 1 April 2004
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan 2012. The President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev made a speech at the opening ceremony.
Stirling prize winner Amanda Levete said: “She was an inspiration. Her global impact was profound and her legacy will be felt for many years to come because she shifted the culture of architecture and the way that we experience buildings. She was an extraordinary role model for women. She was fearless and a trailblazer – her work was brave and radical. Despite sometimes feeling misunderstood, she was widely celebrated and rightly so”
The architect Daniel Libeskind said he was devastated by her death. “She was a good friend. It’s devastating news. I’m so, so sad. It’s as if a star has gone out in the firmament of architecture. It’s a sad loss that I think is irreplaceable because she was a unique architect.
“I think she was really a pioneer because as we all know it’s very difficult for women to succeed in a male dominated field and she was an example and an inspiration to many women in architecture. I think she had a very important role in engendering a sense that equality is coming and must come.”
Sir Norman Foster said of her, “I think it was Zaha’s triumph to go beyond the beautiful graphic visions of her sculptural approach to architecture into reality that so upset some of her critics. She was an individual of great courage, conviction and tenacity. It is rare to find these qualities tied to a free creative spirit. That is why her loss is so profound and her example so inspirational. And, besides, she was my dear friend.“
‘Unique Circle’ Superyacht for Blohm + Voss 2013
Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre, UAE, 2007
ZH Triflow Tap
She was committed to education and taught at institutions around the world including Harvard University, Columbia University, Yale University and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. Zaha was the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004, won the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011, was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012 and was the first woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal in her own right in 2016. She also received the Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the Republic of France and the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association. Her brilliance and creativity changed the field of architecture with new spatial concepts and bold visionary forms. She will be greatly missed.
—New York Times
Handbag for Lois Vuitton and shoes for Melissa 2013
Volu Dining Pavilion for Design Miami 2015
The history of the Gold Medal must surely include many major figures who commanded a big ship and one ponders upon the operation involved that gets such strong concepts as the MAXXI in Rome – in which the power of organization is so clear – or the Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck where dynamic is at last captured – or the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics where the lines diving boards were as fluid as the motion of the divers – made into reality. And she has done it time and time again in Vienna, Marseilles, Beijing and Guangzhou.
Never has she been so prolific, so consistent. We realize that Kenzo Tange and Frank Lloyd Wright could not have drawn every line or checked every joint, yet Zaha shares with them the precious role of towering, distinctive and relentless influence upon all around her that sets the results apart from the norm. Such self-confidence is easily accepted in film-makers and football managers, but causes some architects to feel uncomfortable, maybe they’re secretly jealous of her unquestionable talent. Let’s face it, we might have awarded the medal to a worthy, comfortable character. We didn’t, we awarded it to Zaha: larger than life, bold as brass and certainly on the case.
How lucky we are to have her in London.
—Sir Peter Cook, Royal Gold Medal Citation For Zaha Hadid (Extract)
520 West 28, Apartment Building, New York 2016
“Architecture is how the person places herself in the space. Fashion is about how you place the object on the person.”