Zaha Hadid – No Compromise
Friday April 1, Australia. The morning’s news was not so much as a bad April Fools joke, but a sad day for the world of architecture. Zaha Hadid passed away on 31 March 2016. The sudden death of architecture’s leading lady, diva and “Starchitect”.

Born in Baghdad in 1950, Zaha Hadid’s university focus moved from mathematics to architecture. Studying at the Architectural Association in London, Hadid graduated in 1977.

Now regarded as the greatest female architect in the world, London based Zaha Hadid was the first woman to receive the RIBA gold medal and the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, 2004.

Two years after graduating Zaha Hadid joined forces with Patrik Schumaker to establish their London based practice Zaha Hadid Architects. In 1983 “The Peak Club”, Hong Kong (competition) transported ZHA onto the world stage, with other competitions such as Kurfürstendamm, Berlin, following.

The rest is history. The Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany is ZHA’s first major built project, completed in 1993. ZHA’s built projects since are generally more expansive and certainly assertive.

L: The Peak Leisure Club, Painting by Zaha Hadid Architects 1983-1984. Image via ZHA website R: Vitra Fire Station, 1990 – 1993, Weil Am Rhein, Germany, Photograph by copyright Christian Richter. Image via ZHA website

I was introduced to Zaha Hadid and the Deconstructionists as an architecture student. The new ideas, drawings, and designs of this period introduced us to a radically different way of thinking about place, space, time, materials and relevance. It brought us a new potential of architecture, and a new way to consider design.

Hadid is said to be uncompromising, a fiery boss, with extreme expectations. Not one to not hold back on unleashing her temper. Yet it appears there is a human side. Hadid’s death has prompted comments from friends and colleagues describing her warmth, her talent, her frivolity, and her humour.

Rem Koolhaas provides us with a touching understanding of their long friendship and friendly professional rivalry. He refers to Hadid’s “combination of beauty and strength” stating she was “incredibly generous and incredibly funny”.

Portrait of Dame Zaha Hadid. Photograph by Mary McCartney, via RIBA web site

Koolhaas also offers a gem of insight into Hadid’s design sensibility. He refers to Hadid’s Arab heritage – not being of the Western world: “certain people of course really benefit from a kind of eccentric or unusual biography, and I’m sure that being born in a political and diplomatic milieu in Iraq”… “the subsequent sampling of so many different cultures simply made her unbelievably well informed and conversant with so many different values, details, intricacies, that kind of life in itself is of course an enormous stimulation to become an all-round person

Recent commentary also highlights Hadid’s successes within the conventionally male world of architecture. John Seabrook’s personal tribute to Hadid suggests, “it was because Hadid was a woman who had dared to enter a man’s world, and took no shit from anybody, though plenty was offered. She had to be twice as smart and three times as tough as her male counterparts in order to get anything built.” And from Amanada Levete: “She was an extraordinary role model for women. She was fearless and a trailblazer – her work was brave and radical”.

Messner Mountain Museum, Zaha Hadid Architects, Image via ZHA website

Continuing ZHA’s brave and exciting experimentation of form and technology Hadid has more recently ventured into other design areas creating fashion objects including jewellery and shoes. 2013 brought us Hadid’s limited edition chrome plated “NOVA Shoe”, a first ever shoe design to utilise rotational moulding. In 2015 many of her 3D printed shoes were in the exhibition “Reinvented Shoes” at Milan Design Week.



Toowong Riverfront”, Brisbane Image via Dezeen

Australia is yet to be graced by Hadid’s built work. The Sunland Group’s proposed three-tower “Grace on Coronation” in Brisbane has been approved by Brisbane City Council in 2015, but may not survive the peril of objections. Another, Mariner’s Cove redevelopment (near Seaworld) on the Gold Coast, is currently waiting approval for two 44 storey structures, designed to accommodate 370 apartments and boutique hotel.

In the Melbourne context ZHA has collaborated with ARM Architecture in 2007 on a tower complex in Collins Street, Docklands. Soon after it was claimed to be too expensive to build. In 2013, ZHA and BVN Donovan Hill collaborated on a proposal for the Flinders Street Station Competition. More recently ZHA and Plus Architecture have collaborated on a 54-storey tower, a mix use development.

Sunland Group’s Managing Director, Sahba Abedian had does not expect too much to change, sating Hadid “has had a lifelong partnership with Patrick Schumacher and there are of course the partners within her practice, so ultimately the practice will continue to endure”.

I beg to differ. Whilst ZHA will continue the work currently in the pipeline, the world architecture community has lost a major player.

We have lost a woman who has played, and triumphed, in a man’s world. We have lost an architect who has practiced, taught us and advocated her passion for design excellence within an increasingly mediocre built world. We have lost a visionary who has bridged the Arab and Western cultures to create a number of significant uncompromising buildings worldwide.

A fond farewell to you Zaha Hadid. We will miss your fire.

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