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Last week, on March 8th, International Women’s Day was celebrated across the globe. To honor this special day, we take a look at the works of one of the world’s most prominent female architects: Zaha Hadid.
Guangzhou Opera House by Zaha Hadid
image © Iwan Baan

Who is Zaha Hadid?

There is no question that today Zaha Hadid is one of the most known faces of contemporary architecture.

Zaha Hadid
image © Mary McCartney

Not only an internationally renowned architect (she was the winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2004), she has also made waves in the world with her designs in fashion, art and commercial products.

Merging influences from her native land, Iraq with western elements, she has designed and built projects of all scales and uses around the globe. Though her structures might be seen as alien, almost with a life of their own, her works have always been intriguing, magnetic and of course, controversial.

Despite her tragic early death in 2016, Zaha Hadid has left behind a rich legacy of architectural wonders that carry her particular aesthetic signature; a building that says Hadid at a first glance.

The Hadid Signature

Zaha Hadid’s works cannot be just described as architecture; they seem to be a snapshot of a moment frozen in time, capturing motion and balance with an intriguing fluidity and a surprising sharpness.

Her work, undoubtedly bold, advocates freedom from the past, from the visual expectations, and in a sense, from physical constraints. With her structures, the reality warps, perspective tilts, lines converge and gravity stutters.

This sense of calculated disturbance is visible not only in her architectural works, but also in her colorful collages and paintings.

59 Eaton Place by Zaha Hadid
59 Eaton Place – image © Zaha Hadid Architects

The structures contain a series of complex interior spaces that interlock, spiral and fold in on themselves. However, the exterior is just as important in her designs, if not more: the landscape always plays an integral role in the form and orientation of the building.

Parametric Geometries

Zaha Hadid’s work embodies modernism at its heart: the newest technologies are used to maximize space, efficiency, and technical capabilities to push the change of perspective that extra step further.

Parametric design tools are necessary to achieve the complex, carefully engineered spaces, and with luck too, the technology has advanced to accommodate for Hadid’s swerving, looping shapes.

Over time, it is possible to see Hadid’s work become smoother and more fluid, but with it there is also a decrease in variety and colour compared to her earlier projects. This shift in style also unfortunately marked the end of her intriguing collages bursting with energy and colour.

Notable Works

The Peak Leisure Club
The Peak Leisure Club by Zaha Hadid
image © Zaha Hadid Architects

Year: 1982-1983

Status: Competition/Research

Location: Hong Kong, China

Standing above the chaotic congestion of the city, the clubhouse was designed as a “man-made polished granite mountain.” The structure has a distinctive and sharp horizontal orientation, cutting through the site and reaching out to the city.

Each level within the structure is fortified by its particular function: the first and second levels contain apartments; the third level is a large void carved into the structure containing the club, with a bar and library floating in its double height space; and the uppermost level has the penthouse units.

Vitra Fire Station
Vitra Fire Station by Zaha Hadid
image © Christian Richter

Year: 1990-1993

Status: Built

Location: Weil am Rhein, Germany

The Vitra Fire Station is a prominent reminder that Hadid’s work emerges from what their landscape and context offer: it is a building with sharp edges and a deceiving simplicity that seems to be sliced off the adjacent factory units.

The structure made of exposed, reinforced concrete and frameless glazing embodies a frozen dynamism, waiting to spring to life. As a consequence, it dictates and defines the spaces around it as well as within.

Bergisel Ski Jump
Bergisel Ski Jump by Zaha Hadid
image © Hélène Binet

Year: 1999-2002

Status: Built

Location: Innsbruck, Austria

Part of the Olympic Arena refurbishment project, the Bergisel Ski Jump actually offers multiple functions: a ski ramp, sport facilities, a café and a viewing terrace.

The structure, which plays the role of both a tower and a bridge, rises from the hill, continuing the landscape of the ski slopes to the sky.

Kartal-Pendik Masterplan
Kartal-Pendik Urban Plan by Zaha Hadid
View from the Marmara Sea. – image © Zaha Hadid Architects

Year: 2006

Status: Competition

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

The winning competition entry for the urban redevelopment of the Kartal-Pendik district aims to make the city more polycentric and to turn the area into a new civic, residential, commercial, and transport hub of Istanbul.

The masterplan grows out from a main boulevard as its central axe, and creates separate areas for business, recreation and culture.

The scheme is a drastic one: a complete change from the existing small scale urban tissue, but it was seen at the time as a futuristic push for the fast-developing city.

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre
Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre by Zaha Hadid
image © Iwan Baan

Year: 2007-2012

Status: Built

Location: Baku, Azerbaijan

In contrast to the more rigid, formal, monumental Soviet architecture, the cultural centre in Baku shows off a fluid form curving along to the ripples of its landscape. The structure smoothly and effortlessly connects the different functions inside its swooping shell.

The line between inside and outside is blurred as the exterior walls curve and melt into the walls defining the interior spaces.

As a whole, the structure exudes a sense of optimism and lightness, breaking free of its Soviet Modernism-imbued past.

Guangzhou Opera House
Guangzhou Opera House by Zaha Hadid
image © Iwan Baan

Year: 2003-2010

Status: Built

Location: Guangzhou, China

Overlooking the Pearl River, the state-of-the-art opera house in Guangzhou aims to create a new dialogue with the city it is located in.

Shaped like two boulders, the form of the structure has evolved from its site, as is common in Hadid’s works. The contoured profiles of the boulders gradually extend into a promenade towards the pedestrians, connecting the building with the city.

MAXXI: Museum of XXI Century Arts
MAXXI by Zaha Hadid
image © Iwan Baan

Year: 1998-2009

Status: Built

Location: Rome, Italy

A contrast to the historical and static city of Rome, the MAXXI museum boasts Hadid’s trademark elements: curving concrete walls, large glazed surfaces streaming daylight inside, black blocks of staircases hung in the void. The fluid pathways in the museum weave, intersect, and connect, creating dynamic and interactive spaces and blurring the boundary between inside and outside.

Z-Car I and II
Z-Car I by Zaha Hadid + Patrik Schumacher
image © Zaha Hadid Architects

In collaboration with Patrik Schumacher

Client: Kenny Schachter

Year: 2005-2008

Status: Concept

Based on an earlier 3-wheeled version, the Z-Car is a sleek and innovative 4-seater vehicle. The car is designed to be completely emission-free, and runs on 4 electric in-wheel motors, powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

Mesa table
Mesa Table by Zaha Hadid + Patrik Schumacher
image © Zaha Hadid Architects

In collaboration with Patrik Schumacher

Client: Vitra

Year: 2007

Status: Complete

Reflecting on Zaha Hadid’s architectural designs that are both sculptural and contextual, the Mesa table also skews, distorts and hangs in a delicate balance. The surface of the table, similar to lily pads floating in a pond, is supported by an unseen and organic structure underneath.

Melissa Shoe
Melissa Shoe by Zaha Hadid + Patrik Schumacher
image © Zaha Hadid Architects

In collaboration with Patrik Schumacher

Client: Melissa/Grendene S/A

Year: 2008

Status: Complete

Expressing Hadid’s signature design approach in a new medium, the Melissa shoes were designed to evoke a sense of movement and dynamism, where the separation between the body and the object is blurred.


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