From Bagdad (her birth) to London (her adopted home) to Miami (her last days), Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid, one of the greatest architects of our time and the first female architect to be honored with the Pritzker Prize (2004), architecture’s highest accolade, died of a heart attack on March 31st, 2016. She was 65 years old.
Hadid headed up her own firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, with 400 staff engaged in 950 projects in 44 countries. Just this past year, she became the first woman awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal. The selection statement credited “her “significant contribution to the theory and practice of architecture” and commended her for “a substantial body of work, rather than work, which is currently fashionable.”
According to London’s Design Museum, she used "multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry” in her edifices “to evoke the chaos of modern life." Her biomorphic (earlier works geometric) neofuturistic buildings grace the great cities and regions of the world and are in themselves, a reason to visit these destinations.
Some of the mega-projects that she had in the works prior to her passing include: the World Cup stadium in Qatar, and an array of residential and mixed-use towers and cultural venues in China, Russia, Mexico, and Miami. In Miami specifically, she was at work on 1000 Museum Tower, a 30,000 square foot luxury residential skyscraper with fewer than 100 units. As a still-in-development non-architecture project, she was creating a line of luxury homeware for London’s upscale Harrods department store. She had already designed a handbag for Fendi; vases for Lalique; a perfume bottle for Donna Karan; jewelry for Geog Jensen, Aziz and Walid Mouzannar, and Caspita; furniture, a “superyacht,” and even a line of architecturally inspired swimwear.
Wikipedia offers a spread sheet on all her maverick architectural works, both real and never realized. Below are 13 of her most impressive buildings from around the world worth seeing, entering, and experiencing:
Vitra Fire Station, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Weil am Rhein, Germany (1993)
This was Hadid’s first realized project and the launch of her career. However, the impressive, convoluted geometric, clashing planes, made it too impractical as a fire station, and it evolved instead into a popular events space.
Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, Cincinnati, Ohio (2003)
The CAC was the first U.S. museum designed by a woman and the first American building designed by Hadid. When it opened, the New York Times cheered it as "the most important American building to be completed since the cold war." The concrete, steel and glass building features undulating levels and ramps to accommodate the varied shapes, scales and media of contemporary art. The architecture itself has inspired artists, who created works specifically for these galleries.
Phaeno Science Center, Wolfsburg, Germany (2005)The 505 feet of this daring structure sports jagged angles, looming curves, fractured planes, and sharp protrusions resting on – or apparently hovering over -- wide concrete triangular pillars. Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza, Spain (2008)Constructed for the Expo 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain as one of its main landmarks, this innovative 919 foot covered bridge imitates a gladiola over the river Ebro. The fiber glass reinforced concrete bridge connects the neighborhood of La Almozara with the exposition site. It created a main entrance to the Expo venue and at the same time was a multi-level exhibition area. During Expo 2008, it hosted the exposition “Water – a unique resource.” When the Expo was over, the pavilion was purchased by the local as an exposition site.
Evelyn Grace Academy, Brixton, South London, UK (2008)The Z-shaped building, – with a running track tunneling right through it and out the other side was awarded the 2011 Stirling Prize. MAXXI Museum of XXI Century Arts, Rome, Italy (2009)
According to Archdaily, Hadid herself said, “The museum is 'not an object-container, but rather a campus for art', where flows and pathways overlap and connect in order to create a dynamic and interactive space.” This space of concrete curved walls, suspended black staircases, open ceiling catching natural light “is suitable for any kind of moving and temporary exhibition, without redundant wall divisions or interruptions.”
Guangzhou opera house, Guangzhou, China (2010)Located in the heart of the cultural sites development area overlooking the Pearl River, the folded, flowing glass structure resembles two pebbles perched on the river banks. Light pours in, and its contoured profile, twin boulder design and approach promenade, offer open access to riverside and docks. The building houses a 1,800-seat theatre plus 400-seat multifunctional hall, rehearsal rooms and entrance hall. Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Abu Dhabi, UAE (2010)The bridge is named for the country's principal architect and former president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. At nearly 921 yards long, it claims to be the most intricate bridge ever constructed. It is the third traffic route connecting the mainland to the island of Abu Dhabi and the new main gateway over the Maqtah channel. In the evening, subtle-colored lights enhance its expanse of curved arches, evoking the undulating sand dunes of the desert.
Riverside Museum, Glasgow, Scotland (2011)This 118 foot-high, zig-zag shaped and “pleated” edifice was designed to evoke waves of water, as it stands a guardian to the waterfront, reminiscent of the shipbuilding and seafaring legacy of the River Clyde. With its clear-glass façade, on-lookers can see into this museum of transportation, which features over 3,000 exhibits of cars, bikes, ships, trains and trams. London Aquatics Centre, Stratford, London UK (2012)When this venue for the 2012 Olympics swimming and diving events opened to the public in February 2014, local school children proclaimed, “It’s like swimming in a spaceship.” The flagship venue in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, sports a wave-like roof incorporating 3,000 tons of zig-zagging steel and two expansive glass walls affording spectacular views into the park. It now offers community swimming and with 2,500 stadium seats, is welcoming other international aquatic events, including the LEN European Aquatics Championships in May 2016. Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, Baku, Azerbaijan (2012)The antithesis of “Soviet era Modernism,” emerging 21 years after Azerbaijan’s independence, this is a truly 21 Century exhibition and performance space. Made of Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) and Glass Fiber Reinforced Polyester (GFRP), its elaborate formations, undulations, bifurcations, and folds envelope the urban plaza, as it “welcomes, embraces, and directs visitors through different levels of the interior.” Galaxy Soho, Beijing, China (2012)The Galaxy Soho is the largest mixed-use (retail, entertainment, offices) development complex of Beijing’s East 2nd Ring Road. Located on a 50,000 square meter lot, the four continuous, flowing domes – likened to enormous pebbles in a Chinese garden -- engulf 15 above-ground and three below-ground stories, while paying homage to traditional courtyard architecture. Jockey Club Innovation Tower, Hong KongHome to the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) School of Design and the Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation, this 15-storey, 15,000 sq. m. tower accommodates more than 1,800 students and staff. At the bottom it appears to me to be almost like the base of a cruise ship, but it scales much higher. The design dissolves the typical typology of the tower/podium into a more fluid composition. Interior and exterior courtyards create informal spaces to meet and interact, complementing the large exhibition forums, studios, theatre and recreational facilities.