Zaha Hadid

The Queen of the Curve

“There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?” This quote comes from the late Zaha Hadid, who gained fame for her futuristic architecture with curved exteriors and sharp corners, made of robust materials like concrete and steel. She skillfully transformed these rough materials into structures that seemed both solid and flexible.

Zaha Hadid, 2013

Zaha Hadid, 2013

Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1950. Her interest in architecture emerged early on, influenced by childhood visits to Sumerian cities in southern Iraq. She studied mathematics at the American University in Beirut before pursuing architecture in London at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. In 1980, she founded Zaha Hadid Architects, forging her own path in the field.

Starting her career as an outsider, Zaha Hadid emerged as a prominent and unconventional architect in the twenty-first century. Her work earned numerous awards, including being the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize (often referred to as the Nobel Prize of architecture) in 2004.

You really have to have a goal. The goal posts might shift, but you should have a goal. Know what it is you want to find out.

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid’s first completed project, the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, showcases her innovative approach to design. Built in the early 1990s, the structure features striking, angular forms that extend boldly into space, creating a sense of dynamic motion frozen in time.

Vitra Fire Station, 1993. Weil am Rhein, Germany. Photo by Christian Richter. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

Vitra Fire Station, 1993. Weil am Rhein, Germany. Photo by Christian Richter. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

Cincinnati’s Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Centre, completed in 2003, stands out as one of the few projects by Hadid that incorporates cubic shapes. Notably, it is the first museum in the United States designed by a woman.

Upon its debut, the New York Times hailed it as “the most significant American building since the Cold War’s end,” recognizing its architectural innovation. The museum spans seven floors, resembling a taller and slender version of a Rubik’s Cube.

Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, 2003. Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Roland Halbe. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, 2003. Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo by Roland Halbe. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

In 2010, Zaha Hadid Architects unveiled the National Museum of the 21st Century Arts (MAXXI) in Rome. This modern art museum took a decade to complete and now stands as a testament to Hadid’s ability to blend contemporary design with the city’s classical architectural heritage.

MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, 2010. Rome, Italy. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

MAXXI National Museum of XXI Century Arts, 2010. Rome, Italy. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

Despite residing and working in the United Kingdom since the early 1970s, Zaha Hadid had her first significant project in the UK only in 2011. This notable commission was the Riverside Museum in Glasgow.

The Riverside Museum, 2011. Glasgow, UK. Photo by Hufton + Crow. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

The Riverside Museum, 2011. Glasgow, UK. Photo by Hufton + Crow. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

Throughout her career, Zaha Hadid’s architectural style transformed, as her sharp edges gave way to graceful curves and rolls. In 2012, Zaha Hadid Architects constructed the Heydar Aliyev Center in the heart of Baku, Azerbaijan. This mesmerizing cultural center symbolizes modernization and progress in the country following its independence from the Soviet Union. The center’s distinctive shell-like design deliberately contrasts with the prevailing rigid Soviet architecture throughout the capital.

Heydar Aliyev Center, 2013. Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Iwan Baan. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

Heydar Aliyev Center, 2013. Baku, Azerbaijan. Photo by Iwan Baan. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

In 2016, the world lost a remarkable visionary as Hadid, aged 65, passed away unexpectedly in a Miami hospital. Her impact on global architecture is immeasurable. She belonged to a generation of architects who not only redefined existing forms but also pioneered new ones that came to express contemporary design. And as an Arab woman achieving international recognition, she challenged preconceived notions of what an architect could be.

Words of Wisdom

“Learn as if you will live forever, live like you will die tomorrow.” —Mahatma Gandhi

“I never dreamed about success. I worked for it.” —Estée Lauder

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston S. Churchill

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” —Jim Rohn

Bibliography

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