Zaha Hadid: The only woman who won the Royal Gold Medal

Renowned architect, builder of numerous iconic buildings and recipient of prestigious prizes.

    Iconic works

    • Heydar Aliyev Center
    • Messner Mountain Museum
    • London Aquatics Centre
    • Nordpark Railway Stations
    • Guangzhou Opera House
    • The Phæno Science Center



    Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid, was the first female winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize on May 31, 2004.

    She also received the UK's most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, and she became the first woman to be awarded the 2016 Royal Gold Medal in architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

    Today, Zaha's ongoing legacy is featured by Google, who is paying homage to a woman "who captured the world's attention and shattered glass ceilings".

    This year, Google also featured architects Hassan Fathy and Fazlur Rahman Khan. 

    Early years 

    Zaha Hadid was born into a prominent family in Baghdad during the last years of the Hashemite monarchy. 

    She grew up in the aftermath of the military coup led by Brigadier General Abdul Karim Qassim, and left for Beirut to continue her college education in mathematics, before moving to London to study architecture.

    "Hadid took a fistful of everything that was good and beautiful in her homeland ... and with it, she signed her signature on every corner of the globe she visited," Hamid Dabashi wrote.

    In 1979, she established her own practice in London, the Zaha Hadid Architects. She was a woman in a field dominated by men, but her passion was in pushing the limits of design. 

    "I never use the issue about being a woman architect," she said in an interview to Icon magazine, "but if it helps younger people to know they can break through the glass ceiling, I don't mind that."

    The artist reshaped modern architecture using the surrounding landscape for building inspiration. She was known for her neofuturistic design.

    The lines and sharp angles of the Vitra Fire Station in Germany were inspired by nearby vineyards, and the roof of the London Aquatic Centre forms the shape of a wave. 

    "She was truly a pioneer in the field of architecture. She represents the highest aspirations of the Pritzker Architecture Prize," Chicago-based Pritzker Architecture Prize organisation said.

    Hadid died unexpectedly of a heart attack last year with many projects left unfinished. 

    The artist was also behind the design of the Al Wakrah Stadium, for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

    Her work in pictures 

    A visitor walks at the newly opened Galaxy Soho building, designed by Iraqi British architect Zaha Hadid, in Beijing [Jason Lee/Reuters]

    The Guangzhou Opera House, in China, designed by Zaha Hadid [Getty Images]

    The Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan  [Getty Images]

    An exterior view of Heydar Aliyev Center in downtown Baku, Azerbaijan, June 18, 2015. [Robert Ghement/EPA]

    Aerial view of the Olympic Park showing the London Aquatics Centre and the Water Polo Arena [BaldBoris/Creative Commons/Wikipedia] 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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