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Iconic architect Zaha Hadid dies at 65
Apr 1, 2016

Zaha Hadid, the renowned Iraqi-British architect who was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the first woman to win the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, Britain’s top architecture prize, died yesterday. She had contracted bronchitis and suffered a sudden heart attack while being treated at a hospital in Miami, reported her firm in a statement. She was 65.


Zaha Hadid, wearing the RIBA Gold Medal; courtesy Sophie Mutevelian

Born in Baghdad, Hadid studied math at the American University of Beirut (where she later designed a campus building, completed in 2014) before beginning her career at the Architectural Association in London and, in 1979, establishing her own firm, Zaha Hadid Architects. Some of her celebrated projects include the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan (2013); Guangzhou Opera House in China (2010); the London Aquatics Centre, built for the 2012 Olympic Games; MAXXI, an art museum in Rome (2009); the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (2003); and the Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany (1993). She also designed furniture, footwear, jewelry and cars. 


Hadid’s
Messner Mountain Museum Corones; courtesy Inexhibit


Hadid’s Oxford University Middle East Centre at St Antony's College; courtesy Luke Hayes

The New York Times called her “a role model and inspiration for generations of young architects, men and women, who wanted to become Ms. Hadid: an architect of boundless ambition, a celebrity, and an artist with big ideas who won commissions for some of the world’s biggest, flashiest projects by the sheer force of her intelligence, creativity and personality.”

When presenting Hadid the 2004 Pritzker Prize, the award jury wrote, “Clients, journalists, fellow professionals are mesmerized by her dynamic forms and strategies for achieving a truly distinctive approach to architecture and its settings.... Each new project is more audacious than the last and the sources of her originality seem endless.” Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prize, said of her legacy, “Zaha represented the highest aspirations of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. She combined her vision and intellect with a force of personality that left no room for complacency. She made a real difference.”


Vitra Fire Station, Weil am Rhein, Germany; courtesy Christian Richters


Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House; courtesy Virgile Simon Bertrand


Hadid’s Nordpark Railway Hungerburg Station, Innsbruck, Austria; courtesy Werner Huthmacher

Hadid’s awards also include France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale. In 2012, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Hadid was an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. She also held academic roles, including the Kenzo Tange Chair at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and the Sullivan Chair at the University of Illinois School of Architecture. Hadid taught studios at Columbia University, Yale University and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.


Hadid’s Jockey Club Innovation Tower, at Hong Kong Polytechnic University; courtesy Doublespace


Hadid’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London; courtesy Luke Hayes


Hadid’s London Aquatics Centre; courtesy Luke Hayes

“She was an inspiration. Her global impact was profound and her legacy will be felt for many years to come because she shifted the culture of architecture and the way that we experience buildings,” RIBA Stirling Prize winner Amanda Levete told The Guardian. "She was an extraordinary role model for women. She was fearless and a trailblazer—her work was brave and radical. Despite sometimes feeling misunderstood, she was widely celebrated and rightly so.”

Angela Brady, a former president of RIBA, described her as “one of our greatest architects of our time,” according to the paper. “She was a tough architect, which is needed as a woman at the top of her profession and at the height of her career. She will be sadly missed as an iconic leader in architecture and as a role model for women in architecture.”

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