The architect—immensely popular despite being truly radical—has died following a heart attack aged 65by Jay Merrick / April 1, 2016 / Leave a comment
Zaha Hadid, best-known in Britain as the architect of the Aquatics Centre used in the London Olympics, was arguably the one true architectural superstar of the last decade. Frank Gehry was as famous, Rem Koolhaas was more assiduously controversial, and Norman Foster vastly more successful. But in terms of media magnetism, Hadid had the X-Factor. She was the only architect to whom both of the conflicting words “radical” and “fashionable” applied perfectly. Her early work, based on drawings, was jagged and radical; her more recent architecture was more parametric—more flowing. In both modes, Hadid’s was an original talent.
Her aura—and the fact she would rise to stardom—were obvious from the moment her late arrival interrupted Richard Rogers’s welcoming speech at the 2000 Venice Biennale arts exhibition. Hadid’s oscillations between shy uncertainty and sudden declamatory speech contributed to her now-legendary manner. There was the megaphone she would sometimes use, and the fact she once instructed a portion of her staff to leave her Clerkenwell office because it felt too crowded. As I witnessed myself, there was a very particular way she liked her assistants to deliver her demitasses of espresso, and her firm instruction to her co-director, Patrik Schumacher, to eat more potatoes while both were lunching in a restaurant.
Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Hadid moved to London in 1972 to study at its Architectural Association (its blue English Heritage plaque announces that “most of the world’s greatest architects studied here”). She set up her practice in London in 1979, a city with culture that she loved from the first.
In the 1980s, her competition designs for the Cardiff Opera House and Hong Kong’s Peak Leisure Club featured fractured lines of perspective that came at you like tracer-fire. They owed a great deal to the brilliantly experimental Russian Suprematist and Constructivist art of the 1920s, from artists such as Kazimir Malevich, Aleksander Rodchenko and El Lissitsky. This influence is absolutely clear in the deeply unsettling angles of her first completed building in 1993, the small fire station at the Vitra furniture factory at Weil am Rhein, Germany.