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Zaha Hadid
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Zaha Hadid – Award-Winning Architect and Designer

Zaha Hadid – Award-Winning Architect and Designer

Zaha Hadid was an Iraqi-British architect widely remembered for her revolutionary vision in architecture and design. She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before making history by becoming the first woman to receive the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Zaha’s award-winning iconic designs span the globe pushing past boundaries and expectations. She may have passed away, but her legacy will forever be remembered for her innovative approach and contributions to our society. Read on to learn more about this inspirational woman and our SmartGirl of the day!

Early Life Of Zaha Hadid  

Zaha Hadid was born in 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq and was one of two children. Her father was involved in building and construction, and her mother was an artist. Zaha began her career studying Math at American University in Beirut and moved to London to study Architecture in 1972. Eventually becoming not only a British citizen but a Dame by order of Queen Elizabeth II, Zaha Hadid’s fluid and futuristic designs are scattered across the globe from Hong Kong to Qatar to Paris.  

Before becoming a leading architect and designer, Zaha was interested in mathematics and science. Later, after establishing herself as an architect, she mentioned to reporters how visiting the ancient ruins of Sumer in Baghdad, Iraq, inspired her sense of creativity and taste at an early age. Although ancient designs sparked her curiosity, Zaha’s work is known for being ultra-modern and futuristic.  

Called to Create  

Zaha (meaning blossom in Arabic) Hadid’s designs are striking and deeply expressive. Her work has been criticized for being too artistic and not functional enough, but she firmly insisted on designing and creating in the way that she wanted and continued making the kinds of shapes and figures that are now so iconic in the world of architecture.

When studying in London, she became the student of another talented architect (Rem Koolhaas) and ended up working at his firm for three years in the Netherlands before starting her own company back in London. Despite her talent and drive, however, Zaha’s projects didn’t reach construction for 17 years. Her work only existed on paper. The designs were seen as unusual and impossible to build because of their bends, arches, and sudden turns.

In truth, Zaha’s projects do look like they defy gravity—they have curves and loops that look like a thing that is suspended underwater and not on land. But Hadid understood how to use materials and plastics (that were not being used in the industry) that would make her curved and buoyant buildings hold together on the ground—if only she could get one constructed! In 1993, after years of winning awards for her concepts, Zaha assembled together enough resources to fund her first project independently: the Vitra Fire Station in Germany. After this, she was able to build more and more and prove that her designs could actually stand use.

After a series of completed projects in 2004, she was awarded the most prestigious prize in architecture: The Pritzker Award. Her career took on full force from here, and several of her works were completed. Zaha became a brand name in architecture, and despite her death in 2019, her designs continue to take shape worldwide, with the recent 2022 Qatar World Cup arena being one example.

A Legacy of Invention 

Zaha Hadid was a visionary with a passion for creating new and unusual structures. Her love of shape, texture, and building began early when she wandered around the ancient city of Sumer in her native city of Baghdad, Iraq. The ancient Sumerian city was famously made up of concentric circles and was a marvel of architecture for its own time and even today. Perhaps Hadid’s curved aesthetic style echoes an older heritage and speaks to us from the past, suggesting that much more varied building styles are available to human beings today.

Zaha’s striking works are visible in 44 different countries across the world. Although Zaha herself passed away in 2019 from cardiac arrest, the company that she founded Zaha Hadid Architects, is still in operation and continues to carry out her visions today. All those visions that were left on the drawing board over the course of 17 years are now getting built across the world, expressing a story about persistence and steady commitment to a craft.

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