Known as “Queen of the curves”, Zaha Hadid for some people may come across as just another starchitect who produced eye-catching forms. However, there are many unexpected and bizarre aspects about this pioneer architect in her career, her academic life, and even her personal life that go beyond the limit of concrete and steel.
Here we highlight 10 unusual and unpredictable noteworthy facts that you might not know about the Iraqi-British architect.
1. She designed almost 1000 projects
“You really have to have a goal. The goal posts might shift, but you should have a goal. Know what it is you want to find out.”- Zaha Hadid
The late architect is the founder of the leading firm Zaha Hadid Architects which has designed 950 projects in 44 countries. Initially founded in 1980 with only five employees, the London-based firm has now over 427 staff members working on its many projects. Hadid’s first project—Vitra Fire Station in Germany, was constructed in 1994, while her latest project was the One Thousand Museum which is currently under construction and will be ready by the end of 2018.
2. She had a very successful line of shoe designs
Labeled as “The Lady Gaga of Architecture”, Hadid’s infatuation with design was not only limited to architecture. As a matter of fact, her line of shoes was where she could let out all her creative juices without being restrained by the limitations of architectural design. One of her famous shoe designs was known as “the flame”. The pair of heels reflected a Zaha-like futuristic appeal reminiscent of parametric forms.
3. Her career might have ended in 1995
“It would have become the most radical and compelling building in Britain, but an alliance of narrow-minded politicians, peevish commentators and assorted dullards holding the Lottery purse strings ensured it was never built.”- The Guardian, on the Cardiff Bay Theatre
Did you know that Zaha Hadid did not only face criticism and rejection but was actually about to lose her career?
Causing an outrage in the UK and in the world of architecture, Hadid’s Cardiff Bay commission known as the “Millennium project” was canceled after being selected a winning entry in an international competition. Surprisingly, her proposal was rejected three days before Christmas in 1995.
What’s even more shocking, is that 16 years later after this proposal had been rejected, Hadid’s design came to life in China. Yes, the same plans were used in the famous Guangzhou Opera house which many people idolize today. Opened to the public in 2010, the beautifully-constructed Guangzhou Opera House has added cultural value to the Chinese city which is about 5 times the size of Wales.
4. She won an award every year since 2000
Zaha Hadid’s consistency and determination were key aspects of her success. Unprecedented to any architect, Hadid won an award every year since the year 2000. The visionary Pritzker Prize winner had even received up to 12 awards in one year which is a record-breaker.
Despite her previous architectural tragedy in Wales, Hadid did also receive the UK’s most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize for two consecutive years in 2010 and 2011 by Royal Institute of British [RIBA].
5. She lives in a conventional non-curvy home
“There are 360 degrees so why stick to one?”-Zaha Hadid
Contrary to popular belief, not all starchitects live in homes that relate to their signature design approach. For example, Hadid lived on a top floor of a rather conventional building, and her home looked like an ordinary orthogonal shaped house on the outside. When she was asked about it she simply said, “It is not my project.”
However, coming to her home’s interior, it can be called nothing but extraordinary. The signature Zaha Hadid organic forms are reflected in her furniture pieces, paintings, and smooth mesh-like sculptures.
6. She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut
“You have to really believe not only in yourself; you have to believe that the world is actually worth your sacrifices.” —Zaha Hadid.
You would think that an architect like Hadid would have always considered the architecture career as her true calling. However, this was not the case for Hadid. Being a rebel since she was young, Hadid changed her major from Mathematics to architecture, which she obviously never regretted. Afterward, she moved to London in 1972 to attend the Architectural Association (AA) School where she received her Diploma Prize in 1977. Her interest in geometry greatly influenced her digital architectural forms and neo-futuristic designs.
What is even more striking is that after graduating in 1977, she worked at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture, founded by the pioneer Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. Later on, Hadid opened an office of her own in 1980, which we all now know as Zaha Hadid Architects.
7. She had never been married
“If you want an easy life don’t be an architect.”-Zaha Hadid
Although there once had been an internet rumor about Hadid being married to her co-worker Patrik Schumacher, an official press release assured that this was just a rumor. She was never married nor had children, yet she denied sacrificing family life to her career.
‘I think that in life you don’t need too much; you need friends, you need to do what you like doing.’-Zaha Hadid
8. She was ranked among the top 100 powerful women
“We don’t deal with normative ideas and we don’t make nice little buildings.”-Zaha Hadid
Hadid was not only celebrated for her architecture works and shoe designs but also as a powerful businesswoman. Known as the first female Arab architect to win the Pritzker Prize, she never settled for ordinary. Against all odds, she managed to become a pioneering female role model in an industry which many people thought to be dominated by males. She was also titled Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year.
The aspiring architect was one of her kind as she was listed as number 69 on Forbes’ World’s 100 Most Powerful Women list in 2008. Additionally, The Time 100 list featured Zaha Hadid among the influential thinkers of the year 2010.
9. She attended a Catholic school
“The Muslim and Jewish girls could go out to play when the other girls went to chapel.” – Hadid to Newsweek Magazine
Born in Iraq to a Muslim family, Hadid attended a Catholic school and said that it was religiously diverse. Hadid’s father, who was a politician, constantly took Hadid on trips to visit the buildings and landscapes of Sumerian cities. However, the family had to leave Iraq after the Iran war and the Saddam Hussein conflicts, which was always a painful issue for Hadid.
Little did she know, she was about to become one of the most influential architects in the world.
10. She was a very successful teacher at Harvard
‘Architecture is really about well-being.I think that people want to feel good in a space. On the other hand it’s about shelter, but its also about pleasure’ – Zaha Hadid
Hadid was quite active in the academic field and led a fruitful teaching career. She taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture, and the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg. That is in addition to giving lectures in many other universities and institutions.
“I really believe in the idea of the future. Good education is so important. We do need to look at the way people are taught.“-Zaha Hadid