Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Powerful Woman - Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid was born in 1950 in Baghdad, Iraq. She received a degree in mathematics from the American University of Beirut before moving to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.  She was the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize for Architecture in its 26 year history and has defined a radically new approach to architecture by creating buildings, such as the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, with multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry to evoke the chaos of modern life.

The opening words of the citation when Zaha Hadid was named as the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture in 2004 were: “Her architectural career has not been traditional or easy.” An understatement. All architects have to struggle, but Hadid seems to have struggled rather more than most. Her single-mindedness, her singular lack of compromise is the stuff of legend although, as one writer commented, like a hurricane, “the storms are all on the outside”. In part, it is simple artistic temperament, necessary, perhaps, to create forceful architecture like Hadid’s. And in part it is the survival mechanism required to create such architecture in what remains a distinctly macho profession. "Diva", the critics call her, although as the T-shirts worn by Hadid staff replied at the opening of her first major public building, the Cincinnati Art Center, in 2003: “Would they call me a diva if I were a guy?”

Hadid’s architecture denies its own solidity. Short of creating actual forms that morph and change shape – still the stuff of science fiction. Hadid creates the solid apparatus to make us perceive space as if it morphs and changes as we pass through. Noticeably and uncharacteristically diplomatically, she has declined to comment on the situation in Iraq. Instead Hadid lets her spaces speak for themselves. This does not mean that they are merely exercises in architectural form. Her obsession with shadow and ambiguity is deeply rooted in Islamic architectural tradition, while its fluid, open nature is a politically charged riposte to increasingly fortified and undemocratic modern urban landscapes.

Her non-architectural work includes painting and some high-profile interior work, including the Mind Zone and Feet zone at the Millennium Dome in London and the Z.CAR hydrogen-powered, three-wheeled automobile. In 2009, she worked with the clothing brand Lacoste, to create a new, high fashion, and advanced boot. She has also designed the Moon System Sofa for leading Italian furniture manufacturer B&B Italia. Her first retrospective was held at the Guggenheim in New York City.


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