Iraqi-born architect Dame Zaha Hadid has died of a heart attack in Miami, US, where she was receiving treatment for bronchitis. She was 65. Zaha Hadid was widely regarded as one of the world’s leading architects, and was one of the few women to achieve such a position in the profession.
Born in Baghdad in 1950, she studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before starting her architectural journey in 1972 at the Architectural Association in London. By 1979 she had established her own practice in London – Zaha Hadid Architects – garnering a reputation across the world for her ground-breaking theoretical works including The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994).
Zaha Hadid’s first major built commission, one that affirmed her international recognition, 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 visionary spatial concepts defined by advanced design, material and construction processes.
In 2004, Zaha Hadid became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. She 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, the distillation of years of experimentation, a mature piece of architecture conveying a calmness that belies the complexities of its form and organisation; and the Evelyn Grace Academy, a unique design, expertly inserted into an extremely tight site, that shows the students, staff and local residents they are valued and celebrates the school’s specialism throughout its fabric, with views of student participation at every turn.
Zaha Hadid’s other awards included the Republic of France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Japan’s Praemium Imperiale and in 2012, Zaha Hadid was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She was made Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture.
She 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. Hadid also taught studios at Columbia University, Yale University and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.
Zaha Hadid was recently awarded the RIBA’s 2016 Royal Gold Medal, the first woman to be awarded the prestigious honour in her own right. Sir Peter Cook wrote the following citation:
“In our current culture of ticking every box, surely Zaha Hadid succeeds, since (to quote the Royal Gold Medal criteria) she is someone “who has made a significant contribution to the theory or practice of architecture…. for a substantial body of work rather than for work which is currently fashionable.” Indeed her work, though full of form, style and unstoppable mannerism, possesses a quality that some of us might refer to as an impeccable ‘eye’: which we would claim is a fundamental in the consideration of special architecture and is rarely satisfied by mere ‘fashion’.