ZAHA HADID (1950-2016)
Zaha Hadid (British/Iraqi, 1950–2016) was a visionary architect and designer. The first woman to receive the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in 2004, Hadid is known for the dynamic curving forms in her powerful, elongated structures. Born in Baghdad, Hadid was raised in a flourishing, secular, liberal Iraq, at a time when Modernism signified progressive thinking in the Middle East. After receiving a degree in mathematics from the American University of Beirut, Hadid moved on in 1972 to study at the Architectural Association in London. It was there that she met Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, and Bernard Tschumi, simiarly-minded progressive architects who would also become leading champions of experimental European architecture. After graduating in 1977, Hadid briefly became a partner at the new firm of Koolhaas and Ella Zenghelis, the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, but would soon go on to establish her own London-based practice.
Through her early work and teaching, Hadid fostered her neo-Modernist aesthetic—what she described as a new fluid kind of spatiality of multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry, meant to evoke the chaos of modern life. It took time for her radical, fluid spaces to be accepted by the public, however, and a number of Hadid’s initial winning designs were never built—notably, the Peak Club in Hong Kong (1983) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994).
Hadid’s first building in the United States, the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (2003), was an immediate critical and popular success. Hailed by The New York Times as the most important American building to be completed since the Cold War, the Rosenthal Center allowed Hadid to manifest her beliefs on curating and the museum-going experience, conceived as a ‘kit of parts,’ which curators could customize for each show. The Rosenthal cemented Hadid’s reputation as one of the world’s most exciting and significant Contemporary architects, and led to major commissions, such as the BMW Central Building in Leipzig (2005), the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg (2005), and the MAXXI Contemporary Arts Centre in Rome (2010).
She died on March 31, 2016 of a heart attack at the age of 65.