Zaha Hadid on Being a Woman, a Foreigner & an Architect

zaha hadid pic

 

If you are part of the few brave souls dabbling in the design world then, there is no escaping the eminent name, Zaha Hadid, the star architect who died suddenly at age 65 on March 31, 2016. Zaha’s reputation was built on drawing ideas ahead of their time; before technology and public taste could caught up to the idea that a building could look like it was always in motion.

 

One of Zaha Hadid's early sketches/painting

One of Zaha Hadid’s early sketches/painting.

 

Whenever Hadid was recognized for her astonishing and much-deserved body of work, the headlines were fixated on her womanliness which is unfortunate, because it obscures what was truly significant about her career as an architect. Although Hadid’s presence as a woman was vital to offer other female architects a chance to prove themselves of equal to their male-peers, Zaha did not want to be only defined by her gender but recognized for her work instead. Anne Quito writes in Quartz: “While there are many talented, recognized and respected female architects practicing around the world, Hadid was the only one to have so clearly punched a hole in that proverbial glass ceiling. For many rising female architects, losing Hadid is like seeing a beacon in the field extinguished.

 

Philip Johnson's guests: Seated on the Floor: Peter Eisenman and Jacquelin Robertson; first Row: Michael Graves, Arata Isozaki, Philip Johnson, Phyllis Bronfman Lambert and Richard Meier; second Row: Zaha Hadid, Robert A.M. Stern, Hans Hollein, Stanley Tigerman, Henry Cobb and Kevin Roche; third Row: Charles Gwathmey, Terrence Riley, David Childs, Frank O. Ghery and Rem Koolhaas New York, 1996 - photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Philip Johnson’s guests: Seated on the Floor: Peter Eisenman and Jacquelin Robertson; first Row: Michael Graves, Arata Isozaki, Philip Johnson, Phyllis Bronfman Lambert and Richard Meier; second Row: Zaha Hadid, Robert A.M. Stern, Hans Hollein, Stanley Tigerman, Henry Cobb and Kevin Roche; third Row: Charles Gwathmey, Terrence Riley, David Childs, Frank O. Ghery and Rem Koolhaas New York, 1996 – photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

 

Zaha was not only breaking the stereotypical of being a woman in male-domniated profession but also had to deal with being an emigrant from Iraq in a Western world. In an interview to The Guardian News, Zaha explained:

“I’m a woman and an Arab. Being an Arab woman and a modern architect certainly don’t exclude each other – when I was growing up in Iraq, there were many women architects. You cannot believe the enormous resistance I’ve faced just for being an Arab, and a woman on top of that. It is like a double-edged sword. The moment my woman-ness is accepted, the Arab-ness seems to become a problem.

I’ve broken beyond the barrier, but it’s been a very long struggle. It’s made me tougher and more precise – and maybe this is reflected in my architecture. I still experience resistance but I think this keeps you on the go. As a woman in architecture, you need confidence.

 

Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid Architects

Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid Architects

 

Zaha Hadid has left the world with her larger-than-life structures that has been erected from east to the west of the world, and has included the London Aquatics Centre in London, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre in Azerbaijan and the Guangzhou Opera House in China. She always competed with herself and echoed her belief:

Architecture is semi-artistic, but you are inspired by nature, landscape, biology, all living things. You can be far more ambitious now, you can make great spatial experiences, but one thing which hasn’t changed is that we have to deal with gravity, to land on the ground.

I will never give myself the luxury of thinking ‘I’ve made it’. I’m not the same as I was 20 years ago, but I always set the bar higher.

Dominion Office Building, Moscow by Zaha Hadid Architects

Dominion Office Building, Moscow by Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha’s individualism and confidence led her into the greatest height of architecture. Even if you did not like her structures or her style of representation of architecture, you can not deny her ability to inspire, whether intentional or incidental; that anyone (men & women) from anywhere observing her, knew that they also, could achieve greatness with hard work, passion, and talent.

Zaha Hadid Quote

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