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Obituary: World-renowned architect Dame Zaha Hadid dies aged 65

29th Apr 2016
Obituary:  World-renowned architect Dame Zaha Hadid dies aged 65

(Photo: Simone Cecchetti/Creative Commons)

World-renowned architect Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid whose iconic designs include the London Olympic aquatic centre, died from a heart attack aged 65 last month.

The Iraqi born designer’s prominence as the most celebrated architect in the world is more extraordinary given that she was both a woman in a field dominated by men, and an Arab in a very white industry.
In 2004 Hadid became the first woman recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize and only last February she became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal, one of the oldest prizes in the world of architecture.

RIBA President and Chair of the selection committee, Jane Duncan, called Hadid a “formidable and globally-influential force in architecture,” adding, “highly experimental, rigorous and exacting, her work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, is quite rightly revered and desired by brands and people all around the world.”

Before her death, Hadid designed her first high-rise apartment building in New York City. It is set to open by early 2017 and the apartments will overlook the High Line and come with a slew of high-class amenities.

Born in Baghdad in 1950, Zaha Hadid started her architectural journey in 1972 studying at the progressive Architectural Association in London. She joined her former professors, Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, where she became a partner in 1977.

By 1979 she had established her own practice in London – Zaha Hadid Architects – garnering a reputation across the world for her trail-blazing theoretical works including The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994).

Working with office partner Patrik Schumacher, Hadid’s interest is in the interface between architecture, landscape, and geology; which her practice integrates with the use of cutting-edge technologies – the result is often unexpected and dynamic architectural forms.

Hadid’s first major built commission, one that catapulted her rise, was the Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany (1993); subsequent notable projects including the MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (2009), the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011) and the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku (2013) illustrate her quest for complex, fluid space. Buildings such as the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (2003) and the Guangzhou Opera House in China (2010) have also been hailed as architecture that transforms our ideas of the future with new spatial concepts and dynamic, visionary forms.

She has twice won the UK’s most prestigious architecture award, the RIBA Stirling Prize: in 2010 for the MAXXI Museum in Rome, a building for the staging of 21st Century art and the Evelyn Grace Academy, a unique design, expertly inserted into an extremely tight site.

Her other awards include the Republic of France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Japan’s Praemium Imperiale and in 2012, Hadid was made a Dame. She was made Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture.

Zaha has held various academic roles including the Kenzo Tange Chair at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University; the Sullivan Chair at the University of Illinois, School of Architecture; guest professorships at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg; the Knolton School of Architecture, Ohio and the Masters Studio at Columbia University, New York; the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor of Architectural Design at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Elham Asaad Buaras

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