The architectural world has expressed widespread sadness at the death of Dame Zaha Hadid who passed away last Thursday after suffering a heart attack aged 65.
Winner of the Stirling Prize for architecture twice and the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize for architecture, her fluid, futuristic designs have attracted widespread acclaim.
Dame Zaha Hadid was widely regarded to be the greatest female architect in the world today. Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, she studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before starting her architectural journey in 1972 at the Architectural Association in London.
The Chair of the Jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury, Lord Peter Palumbo said, "The world of culture has lost a standard-bearer for the art of architecture. Dame Zaha Hadid fought prejudice all her life with great success. And this, in addition to her genius as an architect, will secure her legacy for all time."
Richard Rogers told The Guardian newspaper in the UK that the news of Dame Zaha Hadid's death was, "really, really terrible. Among architects emerging in the last few decades, no one had any more impact than she did. She fought her way through as a woman," he said.
"We are all shocked and devastated that we lost Zaha, a most beautiful individual, talent, leader and friend," Patrik Schumacher, Director of Zaha Hadid Architects, wrote on Facebook.
While Riba president Jane Duncan said: "This is absolutely terrible news. Dame Zaha Hadid was an inspirational woman, and the kind of architect one can only dream of being. Visionary and highly experimental, her legacy despite her young age, is formidable. She leaves behind a body of work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, that delight and astound people all around the world. The world of architecture has lost a star."
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was one of the first people to pay tribute to her, tweeting: "So sad to hear of death of Zaha Hadid, she was an inspiration and her legacy lives on in wonderful buildings in Stratford & around the world."
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). How the practice will continue without its founder and major creative force remains to be seen.
Dame Zaha Hadid was also capable of dividing opinion and her temper could provoke fear amongst her colleagues. Speaking in 2013 Aaron Betsky, writer, museum director, and old friend said: "People wonder why anyone works for her, given that she can be a stern taskmaster, but she can also show incredible loyalty and support, and passion for what she does."
Despite several high profile awards for her work and her recent RIBA Gold Medal win Zaha often spoke of feeling like an outsider when it came to the architectural establishment. In February, she was interviewed for BBC Radio 4's "Desert Island Discs." Speaking to presenter Kirsty Young, she said, "I don't really feel I'm part of the establishment, I'm not the outside, I'm on the kind of edge, I'm dangling there. I quite like it."
Working with office partner Patrik Schumacher, her interest was in the interface between architecture, landscape, and geology; which her practice integrates with the use of innovative technologies often resulting in unexpected and dynamic architectural forms.
Dame 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.
Dame 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.
Dame 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 Dame 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’.”