Zaha Hadid was known for pushing the boundaries in architecture. She hated the word compromise and through sheer force of personality, courage, tenacity and above all technical mastery and a futuristic vision, she fought her way to the very top in a world of architecture dominated by men, becoming the first woman, first Arab and first Muslim to receive the Pritzker Prize (the equivalent of a Nobel prize in architecture) and the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Gold Medal. Bill Lacy, Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize said of her:
“Only rarely does an architect emerge with a philosophy and approach to the art form that influences the direction of the entire field. Such an architect is Zaha Hadid who has patiently created and refined a vocabulary that sets new boundaries for the art of architecture.”
Hadid was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950 to parents who encouraged her creativity; at age 11 she was allowed to choose her own clothes and design her bedroom and that’s also when she decided to become an architect. As a child she went to a convent school then studied mathematics at the American University in Beirut before leaving for London in 1972 to study architecture. In 1979, she established her architectural practice ZHA with a staff of 4. It wasn’t until 1993, with her first commission for the Vitra Fire House in Germany, that she was catapulted to fame. But the path to success wasn’t easy and there were bitter deceptions along the way. In 1995, her firm won the commission to build the Cardiff (Wales) opera house, but local authorities refused it and it went to a lesser talent. Today ZHA is a global brand with 400 staff and 950 projects across 44 countries.
Zaha Hadid’s free creative spirit and love for design and technology was not limited to architecture. As her architectural star grew brighter, celebrities and brands clamored to work with her – Chanel, Adidas with Pharrell Williams and Swarovski among others. She created intricately designed objects ranging from furniture and vases to swimwear, and she had a passion for fashion, especially shoes and jewelry. She collaborated with jewelry brands Georg Jensen, Aziz and Walid Mouzannar and Caspita, shoe designers Rem D Koolhaas of United Nude and Brazil’s eco-friendly brand Melissa, as well as with Viviona on a swimwear collection. Speaking about fashion she said:
Zaha Hadid was an inspiring trailblazer who crossed the lines between art, sculpture and architecture. Speaking of her work she said:
“My work demands a degree of commitment and optimism embracing the future with confidence.”
We can only regret that this unique visionary who created shapes and forms that appear to come from an unknown distant place (not unlike another great artist who recently left us, David Bowie) departed from our world far too early. Her immense legacy, which is a testimony to her brilliant creative mind, will live on.