Hadid, Zaha


Hadid, Zaha
▪ 2004

      In Cincinnati, Ohio, the Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art opened in June 2003 to rave reviews—not surprisingly, in light of the fact that its architect, Iraqi-born, London-based Zaha Hadid, had been regarded as one of the stars of the design firmament long before any of her plans took concrete form.

      Hadid's art centre consisted of a glassed-in ground-floor lobby topped by stacked blocks of gray concrete, black aluminum panels, and transparent glass. Monolithic chunks jutted out and cantilevered over the street corner. Inside, Hadid furnished the museum with black pedestrian ramps that angled in a zigzag manner up through a sky-lit shaft at the rear of the building. The many-angled interior spaces illustrated a core tenet of Hadid's theory that there was no reason architecture should limit itself to the 90° angle.

      Hadid was born Oct. 31, 1950, in Baghdad, where her father was an industrialist and a leader of a progressive Iraqi political party. She attended a French-language Roman Catholic convent school and first attended college in Lebanon, studying mathematics at the American University in Beirut. She later moved to London, where she studied under noted Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. After graduation in 1977 she worked with Koolhaas, and then in 1979 she established her own practice in London. By 2003 she was presiding over a staff of 50.

      Hadid first gained acclaim for designs that were never built. Chief among them, in the early 1980s, was a mountainside sports club overlooking Hong Kong; her solution won an international competition. The design, a “horizontal skyscraper,” featured two huge beams thrusting laterally from the mountain. Another, in the early 1990s, was an opera house in Cardiff, Wales, for which she also won design awards. In 1990 her design for the Monsoon Restaurant in Sapporo, Japan, was completed, and in 1993 she received international attention for the completed Vitra Fire House in Weil am Rhein, Ger. During those years she also served occasionally as a visiting lecturer and professor at several universities.

      During 2003 Hadid and her staff were working on such projects as the National Center for Contemporary Art in Rome, a master plan for Singapore, and an art museum near Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville, Okla. In addition, in May 2003 a comprehensive retrospective of her work opened at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna.

David R. Calhoun

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▪ Iraqi architect
born October 31, 1950, Baghdad, Iraq
 
 Iraqi-born British architect known for her radical deconstructivist designs. In 2004 she became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

      Hadid began her studies at the American University in Beirut, Lebanon, receiving a bachelor's degree in mathematics. In 1972 she traveled to London to study at the Architectural Association, a major centre of progressive architectural thought during the 1970s. There she met the architects Elia Zenghelis and Rem Koolhaas (Koolhaas, Rem), with whom she would collaborate as a partner at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture. Hadid established her own London-based firm in 1979.

      In 1983 Hadid gained international recognition with her competition-winning entry for The Peak, a leisure and recreational centre in Hong Kong. This design, a “horizontal skyscraper” that moved at a dynamic diagonal down the hillside site, established her aesthetic: inspired by Kazimir Malevich (Malevich, Kazimir) and the Suprematists (Suprematism), her aggressive geometric designs are characterized by a sense of fragmentation, instability, and movement. This fragmented style led her to be grouped with architects known as “deconstructivists,” a classification made popular by the 1988 landmark exhibition “Deconstructivist Architecture” held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

      Hadid's design for The Peak was never realized, nor were most of her other radical designs in the 1980s and early '90s, including the Kurfürstendamm (1986) in Berlin, the Düsseldorf Art and Media Centre (1992–93), and the Cardiff Bay Opera House (1994) in Wales. Hadid began to be known as a “paper architect,” meaning her designs were too avant-garde to move beyond the sketch phase and actually be built. This impression of her was heightened when her beautifully rendered designs— often in the form of exquisitely detailed coloured paintings—were exhibited as works of art in major museums.

      Hadid's first major built project was the Vitra Fire Station (1989–93) in Weil am Rhein, Germany. Composed of a series of sharply angled planes, the structure resembles a bird in flight. Her other built works from this period include a housing project for IBA Housing (1989–93) in Berlin, the Mind Zone exhibition space (1999) at the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, London, and the Land Formation One exhibition space (1997–99) in Weil am Rhein. In all these projects, Hadid further explored her interest in creating interconnecting spaces and a dynamic sculptural form of architecture.

      Hadid solidified her reputation as an architect of built works in 2000, when work began on her design for a new Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, Ohio. The 85,000-square-foot (7,900-square-metre) centre, which opened in 2003, was the first American museum designed by a woman. Essentially a vertical series of cubes and voids, the museum is located in the middle of Cincinnati's busiest intersection. The side that faces the street has a translucent glass facade that invites passersby to look in on the workings of the museum and thereby contradicts the notion of the museum as an uninviting or remote space. The building's plan gently curves upward after the visitor enters the building; Hadid said she hoped this would create an “urban carpet” that welcomes people into the museum. In 2008 she was chosen to design the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich.

      Hadid is known for her flamboyant personality. She taught architecture at many places, including the Architectural Association, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and Yale University. She has also worked as a furniture designer, a designer of interior spaces such as restaurants, and a set designer. Hadid was a member of the Encyclopædia Britannica Editorial Board of Advisors (2005–06).

Additional Reading
Aaron Betsky, Zaha Hadid: The Complete Buildings and Projects (1998); Hélène Binet (ed.), Architecture of Zaha Hadid in Photographs (2000); Patrik Schumacher and Gordana Fontana-Giusti (eds.), Zaha Hadid: Complete Works (2004); Patrik Schumacher, Digital Hadid: Landscapes in Motion (2004); Alexandra Papadakis and Andreas Papadakis, (eds.), Zaha Hadid: Testing the Boundaries (2005). .

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Universalium. 2010.

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