The Work of Architect Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid Architects03 Courtesy of Helene Binet01 Courtesy of Helen Binet 02 Courtesy of Iwan Baan03Heydar Aliyev Center0201As part of the former Soviet Union, the urbanism and architecture of Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan on the Western coast of the Caspian Sea, was heavily influenced by the planning of that era. Since its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has invested heavily in modernising and developing Baku’s infrastructure and architecture, departing from its legacy of normative Soviet Modernism.Zaha Hadid Architects was appointed as design architects of the Heydar Aliyev Center following a competition in 2007. The Center, designed to become the primary building for the nation’s cultural programs, breaks from the rigid and often monumental Soviet architecture that is so prevalent in Baku, aspiring instead to express the sensibilities of Azeri culture and the optimism of a nation that looks to the future.Design conceptThe design of the Heydar Aliyev Center establishes a continuous, fluid relationship between its surrounding plaza and the building’s interior. The plaza, as the ground surface; accessible to all as part of Baku’s urban fabric, rises to envelop an equally public interior space and define a sequence of event spaces dedicated to the collective celebration of contemporary and traditional Azeri culture. Elaborate formations such as undulations, bifurcations, folds, and inflections modify this plaza surface into an architectural landscape that performs a multitude of functions: welcoming, embracing, and directing visitors through different levels of the interior. With this gesture, the building blurs the conventional differentiation between architectural object and urban landscape, building envelope and urban plaza, figure and ground, inHeydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan

Helene Binet / Zaha Hadid Architects

The architecture world lost an inimitable legend when British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid died at the age of 65 in 2016. One of the world’s leading contemporary architects, Hadid was born in Baghdad in 1950 and later studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut and architecture at London’s Architectural Association (AA) School before establishing her own practice, Zaha Hadid Architects, in London in 1979.

It took her many years to complete her first building, the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany, in 1993. But the success of that high-profile project put her on the international map, earning her a reputation as a visionary architect capable of building daring, revolutionary as well as functional spaces.

MAXII Museum in Rome
Hufton + Crow / Zaha Hadid Architects

Queen of the Curve

In the decades that followed, Hadid made an indelible mark on contemporary architecture around the world with a strikingly daring signature style that relies on geometric shapes to create fluid, dynamic buildings. Known for her frequent and audacious use of scene-stealing curves, she earned the nickname “Queen of the Curve.”

Her boundary-pushing body of work has been made possible by decades of research and experimentation at the intersection of architecture, design, and urbanism and an embrace of innovation and technology that allowed her to revolutionize our concept of what a building looks like. “There are 360 degrees,” she once told the Guardian, “so why stick to one?”

Zaha Hadid
Mary McCartney / Zaha Hadid Architects

A Strong Female Voice in a Male-Dominated Field

Hadid reached celebrity status along with a handful of international “starchitects,” and the fact that she rose to such global prominence in a field still overwhelmingly dominated by men is its own achievement. She was the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize—the most prestigious architecture honor in the world—in 2004. During her lifetime, Hadid was not only a role model for women architects around the world, but a vocal critic of the gender imbalances in her chosen field and an advocate for the need to encourage and support more women in a profession that often shuts them out. 

In addition to her work as an architect, Hadid helped educate the next generation of architects. She taught at the AA School until 1987 and has been a chair and guest professor at prominent universities around the world including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Messner Mountain Museum Corones
Inexhibit / Zaha Hadid Architects

Notable Works

Zaha Hadid Architects has built more than 75 architectural projects, including:

MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (2009)

London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011)

Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan (2013)

Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati (2003)

Guangzhou Opera House in China (2010)

Mathematics Gallery at London’s Science Museum (2016)

Port House in Antwerp (2016)

Salerno Maritime Terminal (2016)

Messner Mountain Museum Corones (2015)

Middle East Centre, Oxford University (2015)

Sky SOHO in Shanghai (2014)

Innovation Tower at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (2014)

Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul (2014)

Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku (2013)

Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London (2013)

Library & Learning Centre in Vienna (2013)

Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum in Michigan (2012)

Galaxy SOHO in Beijing (2012)

Pierresvives Library and Archive in Montpellier (2012)

CMA CGM Head Office Tower in Marseille (2011)

Riverside Museum in Glasgow (2011)

Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi (2010)

520 West 28th Street, luxury residential highrise in NYC (2018)

Port House Antwerp
Tim Fisher / Zaha Hadid Architects

Hadid also created dozens of set designs, installations and exhibitions around the globe. And she ventured frequently into the realms of product design and fashion—often in collaboration with leading manufacturers and fashion houses around the world—to produce more than 100 projects including homewares, furniture, decor, luxury handbags, and footwear.

London Aquatics Centre
Hufton + Crow / Zaha Hadid Architects

Honors and Awards      

Hadid’s work has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC (2006), the Design Museum in London (2007), the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua, Italy (2009), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2011), the DAC Copenhagen (2013), the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg in 2015, and the Serpentine Galleries in London (2016).

Her work has won countless awards and her achievements have been honored and celebrated worldwide. Forbes named her one of the World’s Most Powerful Women. TIME magazine named her as the world’s top thinker of 2010, and one of its selection of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She won a coveted Stirling Prize by the Royal Institute of British Architects, one of architecture’s top honors. UNESCO named Hadid as an “Artist for Peace,” the French government made her a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and Queen Elizabeth II made her a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012. In 2016, she was the first woman in her own right to receive Britain’s prestigious Royal Gold Medal.      

520 W 28th Street
Hufton + Crow / Zaha Hadid Architects

Her Legacy

Today, under the direction of longtime senior office partner Patrik Schumacher, Zaha Hadid Architects continues to complete major cultural, corporate, academic, sporting and infrastructure projects around the world, with more than three dozen currently in progress, including the new Beijing Airport Terminal Building in Daxing, China; the Sleuk Rith Institute in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; the Central Bank of Iraq; and the Grand Theatre de Rabat.