Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid

Known worldwide for her innovative and controversial designs, Zaha Hadid’s death sent shockwaves throughout the world. The community of architecture and design gave pause to Hadid’s death, because at 65 she was still in the apex of her career. To be a renowned architect requires a vast body of knowledge, and this, coupled with the methodical and tedious pace of design to construction, takes a tremendous amount of time for an architect to find their way. Great architects like Frank Loyd Wright and Oscar Niemeyer typically didn’t build much until their late 40s and continued into their 9th decades.

Very early on in her career, Hadid managed to gain an incredible amount of traction. Her interest in the cohesion between architecture, geology, and landscape, by way of cutting-edge design technologies, produced an end result that is unparalleled and dynamic, and it lives on to inspire, provoke, and influence for generations to come.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving, in 1972, to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. Built of cast concrete and glass walls, Hadid's first building was a fire station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, on the campus of the furniture manufacturer Vitra, completed in 1994. The 1994 fire station was her first major work and laid the foundation for her career. Until the Vitra fire station, Hadid was known as the architect who couldn’t get anything built, then in a heartbeat became the architect who couldn’t stop building. Her most recent builds have been on such a colossal scale that, in some cases, they have altered the culture in which they inhabit. One of the most influential projects of her career, The Heydar Aliyev Centre in The Republic of Azerbaijan, won the 2014 Design of the Year from London’s Design Museum. Built in 2012, the 100,000-square meter structure has been noted for its distinctive architecture and unorthodox curved style. The Heydar Aliyev Centre evokes a visual experience almost too good to be true; the massive white curves sweep you up into the sky, and then bring you back down to find a wall of glass panes completely exposing the interior, assuring you—yes, it is real.   

In 2004, Hadid became the first female and first Muslim recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Hadid’s successful architecture career was no cake walk. She managed to shatter a glass ceiling built on the stigmas and prejudices of being an Arab-Muslim woman in a male-dominated industry. In a recent Q&A at the Oxford Union, Hadid described the gender inequalities she faced as, “a certain world I cannot be a part of.” Despite being excluded on golf outings and after-hours drinks with her male colleagues, Hadid’s tenacious and determined personality was impossible to suppress.  Zaha Mohammad Hadid was a formidable and international influence in architecture, and her work, from buildings to footwear, are timeless pieces that will allow her legacy will live on.