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Hadid Wins 2016 Royal Gold Medal

Friday, September 25, 2015

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Dame Zaha Hadid, an architectural icon whose body of work spans more than three decades, has become the first woman to receive the top British architecture prize.

Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty The Queen, honoring a person or a group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture,” according to the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Awarded since 1848, past medalists include Frank Gehry (2000) and Frank Lloyd Wright (1941).

Zaha Hadid
Photos courtesy of ZHA, photographers noted / Mary McCartney

The Baghdad-born, London-based architect is a "globally-influencial force in architecture," according to RIBA President Jane Duncan.

“I am very proud to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal, in particular to be the first woman to receive the honour in her own right,” the architect said in an e-mailed statement.

News of the prestigious award comes days after the designer bowed out of her bid to design Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics stadium.

‘A Force in Architecture’

Jane Duncan, RIBA president and chair of the selection committee, described Hadid as a “globally-influential force in architecture.”

“Highly experimental, rigorous and exacting, her work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, is quite rightly revered and desired by brands and people all around the world.

“I am delighted Zaha will be awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 2016 and can’t wait to see what she and her practice will do next.”

Progress for Women

In her statement on the award announcement, Hadid took the opportunity to speak about women in the profession.

Haydar Aliyev Center, Baku
Helene Binet

The Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, is listed among the architect's most notable works, demonstrating her quest for complex, fluid space.

“We now see more established female architects all the time,” Hadid said.

“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,” the architect said.

In an interview with Glamour Magazine in 2012, the architect said it has not been easy being a “woman in a man’s job,” noting how she missed out on early commissions and encountered years of her work being copied instead of being created.

Her Career

Born in Baghdad in 1950, Hadid started her architectural career in 1972 studying at the progressive Architectural Association in London.

She established her own practice, Zaha Hadid Architects, in London in 1979.

In her work, Hadid blends architecture, landscape and geology with cutting-edge technologies to produce “often unexpected and dynamic architectural forms,” according to RIBA.

Contemporary Arts Center
Roland Halbe

Hadid's work in the United States includes the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati.

Her portfolio includes the Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany (1993); the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (2003); the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011); and the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan (2013).

This is not the only top level architecture award Hadid has been given.

In 2004, the architect became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize—often referred to as the profession’s “Nobel Prize.”


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architects; Architecture; Asia Pacific; Awards and honors; Color + Design; Design; Europe; Latin America; North America; Zaha Hadid

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