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Obituary: Zaha Hadid, Architectural Icon

Friday, April 1, 2016

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The architectural community would not be the same without the award-winning work and dedication of the late Dame Zaha Hadid.

Ms. Hadid, the British-Iraqi designer whose body of work spans the globe, died suddenly early Thursday (March 31) morning. She was 65.

Dame Zaha Hadid
Photos courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects / © Mary McCartney

A statement released by her office said: "It is with great sadness that Zaha Hadid Architects have confirmed that Dame Zaha Hadid died suddenly in Miami in the early hours of this morning (Thursday)."

Ms. Hadid had “contracted bronchitis earlier this week and suffered a sudden heart attack while being treated in [a] hospital,” a statement released by her London-based office Zaha Hadid Architects, read.

She was highly regarded as one of the greatest female architects of all time, a role-model and visionary.

Recent Honors

Ms. Hadid was recently awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects’ 2016 Royal Gold Medal, an honor never before bestowed to an individual woman.

In his RIBA Gold Medal award citation, Architect Sir Peter Cook referred to Ms. Hadid as “our heroine.”

“Indeed her work, though full of form, style and unstoppable mannerism, possesses a quality that some of us might refer to as an impeccable eye,” he commented. “For three decades now, she has ventured where few would dare.”

In 2004, she became the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. She and her firm have received numerous other international accolades.

Her Life and Work

According to her office, Ms. Hadid was born in Baghdad in 1950 and studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before embarking on a career in design in 1972 at the Architectural Association in London.

Seven years later, Ms. Hadid founded her own practice and quickly gained a reputation for “ground-breaking theoretical works including The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994),” her office related.

London Aquatics Center
© Hufton + Crow

The architect's portfolio includes the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011).

She focused on the “interface between architecture, landscape, and geology” resulting in unexpected and dynamic architectural forms, her office said.

Listed below are a few of the projects that both established and escalated her international recognition:

  • Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany (1993);
  • MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (2009);
  • The London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011);
  • Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku (2013);
  • Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (2003); and
  • Guangzhou Opera House in China (2010).

The designer also shared her talent with the future of the field, teaching at various architecture schools around the world, including Harvard University, University of Illinois, Columbia University, Yale University and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Loss of ‘An Icon’

In commenting on the sudden death of Ms. Hadid, the American Institute of Architects’ CEO/Executive Vice President Robert Ivy, FAIA, said:

“Zaha Hadid, Hon FAIA, proudly represented architects and architecture as magnetic, creative forces in contemporary society.”

“From her early drawings and paintings to global mega-projects designed with cutting-edge technologies, she served as an icon for a generation of women and men, embodying what a powerful architect can accomplish.”

Zaha Hadid Architects had not announced information regarding Ms. Hadid's memorial service by Thursday afternoon; however, the firm said messages of condolences could be sent to


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architecture; Asia Pacific; Awards and honors; Color + Design; Color + Design; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America; Zaha Hadid

Comment from Sarah Geary, (4/1/2016, 8:28 AM)

Oh wow. It was always interesting to see what she was going to come up with next. What a great loss.

Comment from Phil Kabza, (4/21/2016, 11:17 AM)

The article should have properly stated, "She was highly regarded as one of the greatest architects of all time, a role-model and visionary." That she happened to be female is an interesting side note.

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