Zaha Hadid: The First Lady of Architecture

Walter Raymond

She was the first female recipient of the Pritzker Prize and the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). She leaves behind a  trail of architectural masterpieces, a bold and inimitable style and a very difficult gap to fill.

Zaha Hadid was a formidable and globally-influential force in architecture. 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. I am delighted Zaha has been awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 2016 Jane Duncan, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), when she presented Hadid with the award this February. She was the first woman to ever receive the illustrious award. This phrase is a true representation of the brilliant architect, who died of a heart attack yesterday, March 31, 2016, at age 65, while being treated for bronchitis at a hospital in Miami, Florida (United States ), the city where a recent project, One Thousand Museum, is underway. It is Hadid’s first residential building in the Americas and slated for completion in 2017.

Zaha Hadid was considered the most relevant female architect in the world. Every building was a new invention, a way of introducing bold designs and different ways that defied the boundaries of design and architecture. Buildings like the City of Dreams in Macau, China, or the interiors of the Opus building in Dubai, plus Madrid’s Justice Campus, and the Aquatics Centre in London, UK, represent just a small glimpse of her creativity and an eloquent sign of her personal and professional courage.

Zaha Hadid was distinguished by a particular architectural style, considered by some as a neo-futuristic. Her work is clad in geometric modernism and the advanced use of curves and elongated forms, which add unmistakable sensuality and style to her structures. Her passion exceeded architecture. “I’ve been interested in fashion since I was a child. It is fascinating how fashion seems to compete with the architecture”, she said, and her innovative designs for shoes, handbags, furniture and other objects confirm her statement.

Zaha Hadid: the bold woman

Born in Baghdad in 1950, she was educated by French nuns and studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut. Later, in 1972, she came to England when she was only 20 years old, where she graduated in 1977. The Dutch architect
Rem Koolhaas–her sponsor–described her as “a planet in its own inimitable orbit.” In 1979, Hadid founded her private architectural practice in the British capital where she lived for most of her life. Aware of her fierce temperament she once commented: “I just do not behave like other people expect.” Justified with the same energy, she guarded her private life as a single woman with no children who was entirely dedicated to architecture: “If it doesn’t kill you, it is not good. You have to get involved full-time, you cannot face your craft coming and going. “

A great architect

Zaha Hadid was an honorary member of the Academy of Arts and Letters of the United States and a member of the American Institute of Architecture. In 2003, she earned the Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies Van Der Rohe of the European Union, and in 2004, she was consecrated as the first woman to receive the Pritzker Prize, the most important award in the field of architecture. Two-time winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize, she also won the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the French Republic, the Premium Imperiale from Japan, and was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012. Just a few months ago she became the first woman to receive the coveted Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

A memorial service will be held this coming Tuesday in London. Her friends in Miami will also organize a memorial in Miami the following week.


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