As you may have heard late last month, the famous architect Zaha Hadid passed away on March 31 from a heart attack in Miami, Florida. Although you may not have recognized her name, you probably have seen some of her work. As a memorial to Dame Zaha Hadid, let’s review her greatest accomplishments and the legend she left behind.
Zaha Hadid was the first woman and first Muslim to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which she won in 2004. This prize is presented once a year to an architect or group of architects whose work “demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.” In the world of architecture, winning this prize is like winning the Nobel Prize. Zaha Hadid won the prize for the Contemporary Arts Center, which is located in Cincinnati, Ohio.
In addition to the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Hadid also won the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011. This prize recognizes the best architectural design by a British person. Just last year, she became the first woman to win the Royal Gold Medal entirely on her own. This medal is awarded on behalf of the British monarch to honor an individual or group’s contribution to architecture internationally.
Zaha Hadid’s most famous buildings include the aquatic center used during the 2012 Olympics in London, the Broad Art Museum located in Michigan, and the Guangzhou, an opera house in China.
Zaha Hadid’s trademark is testing the bounds of architectural geometry. Many of her designs evoke the ideas of cubism; multiple perspectives in particular. Multiple perspectives is the concept of combining the past and present together; viewing the same subject in different ways or from various perspectives. Another signature of Zaha Hadid’s designs is fragmented geometry. No reason to panic, though, we’re not re-visiting concepts from your least favorite high school class. Fragmented geometry simply means a particular shape can be broken into smaller pieces that are each copies of the larger shape. Fractals, for example, follow the fragmented geometry pattern. Hadid used these signatures in her designs as a way to reflect the chaos that is modern life.
Not far from greatness is always criticism and Zaha Hadid’s designs were no exception. Her architectural style has been called extravagant and supported by dictator states. Fellow architect Sean Griffiths said that Hadid’s buildings were “empty vessel[s] that suck[ed] in whatever ideology might be in proximity to it.”
Hadid was the architect of the stadium that will be used for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The working conditions for those building the stadium were horrible and the spotlight was placed on Hadid. While Hadid did express concern for the working conditions, she put the focus back on the government to look into resolving the issue not only with the stadium construction, but with other deaths and living conditions in countries like Iraq, as well.