There are fields of the arts it’s quite hard to know anything about, unless you are part of a pretty tight inner circle.
Architecture is one of them.
Surrounding us constantly to the point where we almost forget it exists, architecture often become the utterly unnoticed background we tend not to give enough attention to.
This said, you must have heard of Zaha Hadid.
We could almost say that there is architecture – an arty, interesting and somehow mysterious discipline, obscure to many – and there is Zaha Hadid: a star.
The extraordinary talent of this daring woman came alive a number of times through the numerous buildings she designed in the course of her remarkable career and which are scattered all around the world.
From the Vitra fire station in Weil-am-Rhein to the MAXXI museum in Rome, as well as the London aquatics centre, you most likely have experienced at least one of them.
After her sudden departure – last 31st March in Miami – her work remains, now serving as mausoleums of the radical innovation within her field she fronted.
Hadid was a visionary, which earned her a strong reputation from the very dawn of her career, started as a teacher at the Architectural Association (AA) in London, her Alma Mater. In 1977 she became a partner at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, working side-by-side with her former professors Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis. By 1979 she had established her own practice – Zaha Hadid Architects – based in London.
She was first woman to win the Pritzker prize – known as the Nobel of Architecture – in 2004, but for years before that achievement, Hadid was often referred to as a โpaper architectโ, one who never actually built anything.
In fact, until 1994, with the creation of the Vitra Fire Station in Weil-am-Rhein, most of her buildings remained conceptual.
Prior to that, she had gained major fame with her theoretical concept of The Peak Leisure Park in Hong Kong in 1983 – ‘an architectural landmark to stand apart above the congestion and intensity of Hong Kong – centred on the creation of a man-made polished granite mountain’ – whose design was the quintessence of radical.
New forms and spaces for a new world, the escavated rock structure of the park was for Hadid the maximum expression of her love for dynamism.
That project too was never realized.
Hadid’s career was not as smooth as her late success might make it seem: rejection was integral part of it, especially at the beginning. The Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales, for example, was a scandal. She had won the competition to realize the building, but was ultimately forced to pull out due to narrow-minded political exponents who were against her project. The fact that she was a woman and a stranger didn’t help help her in achieving the success deserved by her breathtaking revolutionary genius, to the point that talent sometimes seemed not to be enough.
Her designs were bold, extraordinary, brave.
Along with her mentor Rem Koolhaas and Frank Gehry among the others, she belonged to a new form of architectural design called Deconstructionism and was its leading female architect in the world.
Her early interest in maths ultimately translated into her passion for architecture and with the beginning of the 2000s her style shifted from sharp angles to sinuous curves and parabolas. The quick development of digital technology also influenced Hadid’s love for floaty, complex arched lines.
Architecture is all about selling your way of seeing things, the world, a city and for Hadid her aerodynamic buildings changed everything. At the beginning of the 21st century, with the establishment of the starchitects trend, she finally got noticed and started gaining the respect she deserved, and with it came the fame.
Her commissioned works grew unbelievablly, leading her to create palaces of cultural and social function in countries such as Azerbaijan and South Korea – whose development brought them to create a completely new skyline from nothing, in the blink of an eye – a stadium for the World Cup in Qatar and an opera house in Guangzhou, and many more.
Her career – which lasted over thirty years – has left a extraordinary architectural legacy, and a feminist one two, making Hadid a model of female empowerment.
This incredible woman – creative and genial, strong and romantic, passionate and brave at the same time – has succeeded in establishing herself within the scary confines of a male dominated industry and will remain a role model for female architects, but not only architects, forever.