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For Architect Zaha Hadid, “The World is Not a Rectangle”

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins on Tuesday, August 29th, 2017 at 10:16am.

Zaha Hadid knew her place in the architectural community, in that she had no place. Hadid was her own force, creatively and as a leader of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA). She understood that she “dangled,” in her own words, on the edges of the accepted, of the establishment. “Irrepressible, a force of nature,” is how Patrik Shumacher, senior partner at ZHA, describes her. Hadid was a living force of the very landscapes and shapes she incorporated into her work, completing 55 projects across the globe at the time of her 2016 death of a heart attack. Zaha Hadid Architects had no reason to believe their muse and leader would not be with them many more years, and now have the daunting task of 45 more projects to complete in her name, to ultimately honor her legacy.

There is a gorgeously illustrated children’s book called The World is not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeannette Winter. In it, Winter traces Hadid’s design inspiration to her childhood in Iraq, where she “sees the rivers and marshes and dunes and ruins with her father, and imagines what cities looked like thousands of years ago.” Yet Hadid did not stay in Iraq for most of her childhood, traveling and studying in England and Switzerland boarding schools. At the American University of Beirut she was taught mathematics before following her dream at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1972.

Although her designs weren’t built until she was 44 year-old, Hadid’s career escalated quickly from there. Regardless of the glass ceilings broken by American Architect Julia Morgan, there are always more. Among her many awards won are the prestigious Stirling Award in the UK, the 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize and the 2016 Royal Gold Medal in Architecture. She was the first woman to win the last two awards listed, and while introducing her for the Royal Institute of British Architecture’s Royal Gold Medal, Architect Peter Cook explained how Hadid ‘has made a significant contribution to the theory or practice of architecture…for a substantial body of work rather than for work which is currently fashionable’. After her death, Google honored her with a Doodle that marked May 31, the date on which she won the Pritzker.

It isn’t simply her outlook or her achievements that made Hadid stand out from her colleagues, however; she looked at the world differently. One of her famous sayings is “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?” Hadid is often called the “Queen of the Curve” or a “Starchitect,” along with the phrase that marks the title to her children’s book “The world is not a rectangle.”  

Indeed, it is not, and she never felt limited by known shapes. A quick tour through some of her more notable works will truly blow open your idea of what architecture can say with shape.

The exterior of The Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, feels like perfectly, organically folded fabric that is soft to the touch. The interior spaces celebrate both traditional and contemporary Azeri culture in sharp contrast to the Soviet architecture of the previous era before Azerbaijan gained independence in 1991.

The London 2012 Aquatics Centre in Stratford, UK was “inspired by the fluid geometry of water in movement” and indeed could be an area where you don’t need to walk, but can float or sway your way through its interiors. Massive windows above mirror the pools used for the 2012 Olympics, not only letting the natural light inside but offering a floating feeling to all who enter.

Other astonishing designs are the City of Dreams Hotel in Macau, Sleuk Rith Institute in Cambodia, Peak in Hong Kong, Kurfürstendamm 70 in Berlin and the Cardiff Bay opera house in Wales.

Zaha Hadid forged her own style. You can find your own individual tastes using our updated #SearchWithStyle app here.

Photo Credit: Zaha Hadid Architecture

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