Architect Zaha Hadid: Exploring Her Unique Life And Legacy

Zaha Hadid (Needpix)

Architect Zaha Hadid created her buildings with drama, innovation, and daring curves. She revolutionized how buildings are designed by infusing radical creativity and a robust sense of confidence. Overcoming the cultural barriers that had all the potential to bar her dreams had always been part of Hadid’s vision. 

Hadid’s early life

Hadid was unaware of the impact she would one day have on the world of architecture. She was born Oct. 31, 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq and grew up in a Muslim household. According to an encyclopedia entry on Hadid, she came from a home “oriented toward Western multiculturalism.” She was cross-cultural long before her global travels as an up-and-coming female architect.

Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid Architects (Photo by Claudia Lorusso on Unsplash)

Her school growing up was full of religious diversity, with Catholics, Jews and Muslims all welcome and flourishing with one another. The school encouraged lingual fluidity (the Catholic nuns who doubled as her teachers only taught in French). This early education exposed Hadid to the type of diversity she would encounter in her experiences as an architect. 

Hadid’s fascination with architecture began with family trips to the ancient Sumerian cities in southern Iraq. She was excited by the contemporary flow of the landscapes, which inspired much of her future work. She continued her studies in mathematics at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. 

A powerful legacy with unique triumphs 

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Hadid moved to London, where she eventually became a citizen. According to Hadid herself, her professors at the Architectural Association School of Architecture “ignited her ambition.” They taught her to trust even her “strangest intuitions.” Her educational and creative prowess only expanded as she went on to design and oversee a plethora of award-winning projects. Naturally, it seems as though trusting those “strange intuitions” earned her a seat at the table of the greats. 

Zaha Hadid architecture (Needpix)

It would be difficult to deny the compelling impact Hadid had in the world of architecture. For example, even Sir Peter Cook, an equally influential and prominent figure in architecture and a founding member of Archigram, spoke to this impact. He said of Hadid, “I think she has added an enormous amount of language to architecture. She’s devised shapes that we never thought that we could do.”

Some of those unique shapes include structures like the Heydar Aliyev Center. It is famous for its stunning curves, and stark contrast between the interior and exterior of the building. Saffet Kaya Bekiroglu, project architect for the Heydar Aliyez Center, said the architecture showed the “soft, romantic side” of Azeri culture.

I think she [Hadid] added an enormous amount of language to architecture. She’s devised shapes that we never thought that we could do. 

Peter Cook

A woman of culture

The expression of culture had always been a special challenge and aspiration for Hadid. She specialized in actualizing theoretical ideas. Hadid had expressed that her Iraqi heritage has shown her that overcoming the seemingly impossible is an ongoing feat. Her cultural background and cross-cultural experiences in Iraq, Lebanon and London fueled her desire to be and create more. And yet, even with such passionate drive and evident success, her Iraqi community still didn’t quite recognize her accomplishments. 

Architect Zaha Hadid created this 10 foot tall cut crystal standing structure.
Arum by Zaha Hadid Photo Credit: Wikimedia

In an interview with BBC News, Hadid said, “I’m still considered to be on the margin, despite all these things. And I don’t mind being [on] the edge, actually. It’s a good place to be.” Her nonstop determination and vigor in overcoming social barriers and creating award winning structures was a triumph in and of itself.

I don’t mind being the edge, actually. It’s a good place to be. 

Zaha Hadid

Similar to the experience of many Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and Cross-Culture Kifs (CCKs), Hadid faced the daunting task of operating in a world that didn’t quite understand her. She saw what others could not. Instead of shying away and keeping quiet, she embraced her identity as a woman of culture, brains and brawn, using it to her advantage. Architect Zaha Hadid is remembered as one of the most daring architects of her time due to this empowering mentality.


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