'There is still a world that for women is taboo'

The Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid is a name recognised as one of the few female players in a big boy's game. And not just your token female - architecture is one game where noone will take you on, unless you have enough to show for it. Her top leage London practice 'Zaha Hadid office', which she started in 1980, shows what happens when architecture and mathematics take a stroll together. It isn't limited to engineering. Sometimes, they dance.

"Like many women today, I am travelling a lot and I work crazy hours. Working on an architecture project means perseverance. But no matter how much progress has been made, there is still a world that for women is taboo." (designboom interview)


'I did something for them that they thought was extraordinary, which shocked me because I had no idea it was extraordinary'

Was pursuing a career in architecture taboo to Zaha Hadid, who was born in Baghdad in 1950? Not really. Her father was a leader of the Iraqi Progressive Democratic Party; her mother did not work but encouraged her interest in drawing. Both of Hadid's older brothers went to Cambridge, and it was assumed that she would also go to university and pursue a career somewhere in Western Europe. When asked by the Guardian why she was drawn to Great Britain, Hadid responds 'I feel Arab, but in Iraq I was already eccentric. Iraq, in the 1960s, was full of odd people, whose background was Arab but who had travelled everywhere, spoke many languages and were liberal politically. I was lucky to have all these worlds together'. As a young child, she loved mathematics passionately. Although she studied maths at the American University of Beirut (1968-1971) she later steered her interest towards architecture, emigrated to London, and pursued a degree at the prestigious Architectural Association (more widely known as the 'AA') (1972-1977). There she was fortunate enough to be taught by the likes of Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi. She was quickly snatched up by the OMA (Office of Metropoltican Architecture) and became a partner in the same year of her graduation. She left to start her own office only three years later.


'I think all strong ideas don't really fail'

Hadid's early influences included the suprematists, revolutionary Russian artists trying to reconcile ideas about abstraction, geometry and function and Constructivist art. Kasimir Malevich, suprematism's chief theorist, wrote in 1928: 'We can only perceive space when we break free from the earth, when the point of support disappears. Hadid is now closely connected to the architectural style deconstructivism which some may find the be to the Modern Style what the Baroque was to the Renaissance. Other reknowned exponents of the movement are Daniel Libeskind and Frank Gehry. Sometimes known as deconstruction, it began in the 1980s and employs fragmentation as well as an interest in distorting a structure's skin into non-rectilinear shapes which serve to distort and dislocate some architectural volumes. The approach stimulates malleability, unpredictability and the impression of harnessed chaos. Hadid's expression of this emotive and sometimes decadent style is characterised by bold explosions in space, sharp angles and dynamic volumes. For further reading, her philosophy is available to all in her essay '89 degrees'.

Hadid's work has developed from abstracted and fragmented geometry to a clearer focus on interior fluidity. Perhaps her fire station for the Vitra Furniture Company in Weil am Rhein was the first to make the world of design and architecture sit up and take notice.


'So the ground became a project'

Although many of her award-winning designs were never realised other built projects include:
the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (1998) in Cincinnati, USA;
the Bergisel ski jump (2002) in Innsbruck, Austria;
and the BMW building (2005) in Leipzig, Germany

A couple of notable projects in production follow: a Contemporary Art Museum in Cagliari, Italy (2007) and the London Olympic Aquatic Centre (2012)

As a designer, she has designed everything from cutlery to chandeliers. Always basing her geometry on precise mathematical patterns, Hadid's practice has collaborated with Swarovski, Dupont, Sawaya & Moroni, Alessi, WMF and Established & Sons.

In its 26 years of existence, she was the first female architect to win the Pritzker architecture prize in 2004. She has lectured across both Europe and the United States. In 2006, Hadid was honoured by a restrospective exhibition of her entire portfolio at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. This was the same year that she received an Honorary Degree from the American University of Beirut.


wiki on deconstructivism, Zaha Hadid