Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Amanda on Architecture.

Zaha Hadid the Iconic Woman Architect of our Time.

I cannot remember when I first became aware of Zaha Hadid, but I will always remember the shock of hearing of her untimely death in March 2016. An indomitable creative force smashing all the glass ceilings, she was a true pioneer and role model for women architects. I felt crushed for weeks following her death, and after reading all the obituaries written by her close friends, I understood the enormous stress she endured in paving the way for women architects, and the terrible toll it took on her health.

Zaha Hadid was born in Bagdad in 1950 and graduated from the famous Architectural Association School of Architecture in 1977.  Yasmin Shariff’s description of her in an article following her death brought home to me how strong Zaha’s spirit was from the start:-

“I will never forget the day I sat outside the principal’s office hearing raised voices. Zaha appeared, tears streaming down her face, angry and shaking. Her work wasn’t considered good enough and she stormed out of that office determined to “show them”, and show them she did – winning the coveted AA Diploma prize in 1977; the Pritzker prize in 2004; the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stirling prize in 2010 and 2011, and last year the Riba royal gold medal.”

Zaha’s buildings redefined our ideas of what was possible in architecture, yet she faced continual criticism in the media. Every positive piece written about her seemed to be countered by many others that cast doubt on her abilities. All women architects of our generation, I think can empathize with such hostile reactions, having had to face the same ourselves, albeit on smaller scale. Sadly, even other women gave her negative reviews. I found Lucy Kellaway‘s interview in November 1995 for “Lunch With the FT” particularly acerbic. Perhaps that is the time I really took notice of Zaha Hadid for the first time, working myself at that moment on a large hotel design and facing continual obstacles from all sides.

Kellaway focused on the way Zaha was dressed “Zaha Hadid looked all wrong”, and the fact that most of her work had not been built- not true- she had few buildings in the UK- but she had projects all over the world at the time. Kellaway did at least write one small paragraph that struck a chord. “She started to explain that what matters about a building is not what it is made of, or any of the details, but the space itself. “Good space transcends taste and values. It’s a weird, mystical thing. It‘s very difficult to achieve, but you know when you‘ve got it.””

Hallelujah to that!

To understand the genius of Zaha Hadid‘s buildings is to move through them. Technology was unable to convey the true quality of her work early in her career, but as CAD developed she was able to take us on journeys through her buildings. Since that is the best way to experience them, I have included some walk-through‘s for your contemplation.

Bee‘ah Headquaters in Sharjah. UAE  

The Dubai Lighthouse and Pier Project   

Changsha Meixihu, China

….and one from the practice itself in 2014 that reflects on their design philosophy in their own words.

In closing I include a quote from Hugh Pearmanarticle from the Sunday Times on 4 June 2006, titled “Iraquitect: Zaha Hadid commands the Guggenheim, but remembers her roots”

“Whatever you think an architect looks like, whatever you think an architect does, wherever you think an architect comes from, disabuse yourselves of those notions. And consider instead Zaha Hadid, the most extraordinary success story that this notoriously volatile profession has ever produced.

Women traditionally don’t rise to the top in architecture – not on an international level. Not in the stratosphere where Zaha now exotically moves, where a handful of global superstar architects is constantly airborne like some design equivalent of a nuclear deterrent. Women don’t get invited into that club. And as for a notoriously short-fused, allegedly tyrannical, hugely imaginative and sometimes sweetly charming woman from Baghdad of all places – no, that script would be turned down by Hollywood as just too inherently implausible. Besides, no actor on earth could play the mercurial Zaha.”

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