The world lost one of the leading lights of contemporary architecture when the death of Dame Zaha Hadid was announced on 31 March.
Dame Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-born and British-based architect, passed at the age of 65 following a heart attack. She had been checked into a Florida hospital and was being treated for bronchitis.
Dame Zaha was a veritable icon in the architectural world, and was the first woman to receive the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) Gold Medal in recognition of her work. Many consider her a trailblazer for women in the industry.
“We now see more established female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress,” said Dame Zaha, upon receiving her Riba award.
A visionary, Dame Zaha designed many of the most iconic buildings of our time. These include the Serpentine Gallery in London, Guangzhou Opera House, Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi, and Al Wakrah Stadium for Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup.
It has not always been plain sailing for Dame Zaha, however. Her bid to design Tokyo’s stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics was fraught with difficulty. The visionary architect was told to scale down her design by a quarter, after a 40% budget cut was imposed on the stadium.
Despite the budget cut, many Japanese citizens were outraged, unable to reconcile the government’s austerity measures with the $1.8bn pricetag. Japanese architects also became extremely vocal, throwing blistering attacks over the stadium design.
Arato Isozaki, a renowned Japanese architect, wrote an open letter, denouncing the Dame Zaha design as a “monumental mistake”, and claiming that the mere sight of the plans left him “in despair.”
Protests drew hundreds, and thousands signed a petition to scrap the stadium – a move which was actually successful. Apparent similarities between the new design and Dame Zaha’s original prompted a lengthy legal battle – which remains unresolved.
The Qatar World Cup stadium has also been mired in controversy, with concerns over working conditions that has seen hundreds of workers, mostly migrants from the Indian Subcontinent, perish. Dame Zaha cut a BBC Radio 4 interview short in September of last year after she was questioned about the deaths.
“We sued somebody for writing that, and saying that, and it had to be withdrawn from the press. It is absolutely inaccurate. There’s no deaths on our site whatsoever,” insisted an indignant Dame Zaha.
Dame Zaha Hadid’s designs will remain as an indelible legacy to a true titan of architecture.