We cannot talk about modern architecture without mentioning the name of Zaha Hadid, who was also known as ‘The Iron Lady’ or ‘The Queen of Curves’, because Hadid made a name for herself thanks to her talent and unique style that transformed the skyline of various cities around the world.
Who was Zaha Hadid?
Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, into a wealthy family. Her father was Muhammad Hadid and his mother Wajiha al-Sabunji, both from Mosul. Muhammad Hadid was part of the National Democratic Party and after the 1958 coup, he served as Finance Minister in the government of General Abd al-Karim Qasim.
The good position of the Hadid family allowed Zaha to study outside Baghdad, so part of her adolescence was divided between Switzerland and Britain. Between 1968 and 1971, Zaha Hadid returned to the Middle East to study Mathematics at the American University of Beirut and in the 1970s, she travelled again to Britain to study at the Architectural Association in London, where she was a student of other great architects such as Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis.
Throughout her career, Zaha Hadid taught at different institutions such as Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and even her alma mater, the Architectural Association.
In 1979, Hadid establishes her own London-based architectural firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, which continues to operate after Zaha Hadid’s death on March 31, 2016, in the United States.
In 2016, Hadid died suddenly of a heart attack while receiving treatment for bronchitis. She had decided not to have a family of her own and she was completely dedicated to her career.
The iconic architecture of Zaha Hadid
Vitra Fire Station, 1994
The Vitra Fire Station was one of Hadid’s first architectural projects and includes the same dynamic and radical gestures that would characterize her career. The commission arose after a fire that destroyed structures on the Vitra Campus. Hadid was chosen to design and execute a building that would help provide immediate relief for future catastrophes.
Evelyn Grace Academy, London (2008)
This £36m Z-shaped school in Brixton, south London, with a running track running through it and out the other side, beat out another heavy favourite to win the Stirling Prize. With the overwhelming favourite being the Olympic velodrome, this was the year that Hadid, whose office was a former school, finally felt she was being recognized in Britain.
Galaxy SOHO, China (2012)
Galaxy SOHO is a complex of four vaulted buildings linked by bridges that effortlessly connect and create public spaces. It is closely related to another Hadid-designed building in Beijing called Wangjing Soho. Galaxy SOHO’s central organization around an open space is inspired by traditional Chinese courtyards.
This relationship makes the building a great example of architecture borrowing important functional or organizational ideas while creating its own identity or design language. Although Galaxy SOHO retains the centralized organization, that’s the only aspect of this complex that feels traditional.
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center (2012)
The Heydar Aliyev Center is possibly the most famous building designed by Hadid, although it is not known by its official name. The incredible simplicity and the beautiful connection between the building and the landscape make this building one of Hadid’s best works. Apart from its instantly recognizable shape and beautiful architectural gesture, the design of the Heydar Aliyev Center is also important for its location.
According to the ZHA, the architecture of Baku, Azerbaijan, maintains the architectural and urban ideologies of when it was part of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan gave a cultural push to invest in architecture and infrastructure to help modernize it after gaining independence in 1991.
Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza (2008)
Built for the 2008 Zaragoza World Expo, Zaha Hadid’s first completed bridge was inspired by the river and the gladioli blossoms below it. It is made up of more than 900 feet of fibreglass and concrete and served as a walkway over the Ebro River and an exhibition during the Expo. Upon its completion, Zaha Hadid commented that “The Bridge Pavilion (was) a seminal project for the practice.”
Riverside Museum, 2011
Glasgow’s Riverside Transport Museum was Hadid’s first major project in Britain. It was nicknamed “Glasgow’s Guggenheim” for its star architectural status, like the Guggenheim that put Bilbao on the map, designed by Frank Gehry.
The zigzag roof of the Glasgow museum is clad in zinc and a 36-metre-high glass façade looks out over the River Clyde. The building stands on the site of a former shipyard (a location that partly inspired the angles of the roof) and consists of a 7,000-square-meter steel-framed exhibition space. Like many of Hadid’s designs, the full effect of her form is only seen from above.
Al Wakrah Stadium
The distinctive shape of Zaha Hadid Architects’ Al Wakrah Stadium was taken from the shape of typical fishing boats, called dhows, that can be seen in the city’s harbour.
Opened on May 16, 2019 to host the Amir Cup final of the Qatar Stars national football league, Al Janoub Stadium was the first new stadium commissioned for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar. In 2013, Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) unveiled his design for Qatar’s Al Wakrah Stadium (three years before his death). The Iraqi-born architect created a stadium that tackled the sweltering heat of the Middle East while honouring the region’s history.
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