Once upon the 1950s in Iraq, a little girl looked around her bedroom: What if there were no corners, no lines? What if it weren’t a rectangle? What if…
Dame Zaha Hadid, trailblazing female architect, crossed every line and broke through every concrete wall and glass ceiling. She imagined twists and curves, sensuous layering, 89-degree angles… and designed her room herself. It was so popular the carpenter had to reproduce it for all the other children!
Zaha Hadid was born in a time and place where girls were “nice,” lines and angles were straight and “practical,” and buildings were designed by men. She saw the world differently:
“It is not a rectangle. You don’t go into a park and say: ‘My God, we don’t have any corners.'”
She was fascinated by design. She studied mathematics, then architecture. She used both to explore the relationship between space and structure. She worked at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture for three years then, having well understood the norms and boundaries of her field, set off to break them.
Zaha Hadid Architects was founded in 1980 and designed radically deconstructivist buildings that challenged conventions, and often gravity!
“We don’t deal with normative ideas and we don’t make nice little buildings. People think that the most appropriate building is a rectangle, because that’s typically the best way of using space. But is that to say that landscape is a waste of space?”
She drew inspiration from nature and an intense observation of twentieth century living. Her designs were raw, flowy, futuristic, initially to the point of being rejected as “impractical;” most went, heartbreakingly, unbuilt for over thirteen years.
“You have to really believe not only in yourself; you have to believe that the world is actually worth your sacrifices.”
She persisted, in spite of sexist judgments and rigid conservative views, pushing against the lines until she broke them in 1994. The Vitra fire station in Weil am Rhein, Germany was her first major work, and the Ohio Center for Contemporary Art catapulted her into international recognition. No longer a “paper architect,” she went on to complete over 950 projects in 44 countries and become the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award in the architectural industry.
The awards continued and included Veuve Clicquot’s “Businesswoman of the Year,” and she hit 69th on Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women” in the world. Against all odds, Zaha Hadid became a role model for women and innovators across all fields of design, going well beyond architecture. Her philosophy and work has shaped shoes, furniture, jewelry, lighting, and sculpture. The influences is immeasurable.
Hadid famously said, “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?”
This little Iraqi girl went from designing her bedroom to creating some of the most avant-garde landmarks of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Hadid’s buildings are works of art; they are also entirely practical. Her designs are world, famous, immediately recognizable… and by the way, not a single one has a right angle.