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Zaha Hadid at the RIBA

[THIS WEEK] Hadid’s lecture at the RIBA didn’t live up to her powerful projects, writes James Pallister

Two days after her practice had picked up the Stirling Prize, Zaha Hadid was at RIBA HQ to deliver the Stephen Lawrence memorial lecture. The hall was packed, the lecture sold out.

It was a straightforward, if slightly dull, lecture. There was no grand message or clever narrative to chew on, just a series of projects built and proposed, grouped around themes announced in block capitals; TOTAL FLUIDITY ON ALL SCALES; LINES/BUNDLES/NETWORKS, and so on. What was extraordinary was seeing the amount of projects – who else can boast nine opera houses in the job book? – and the transition from fantastical renders to gritty construction shots (see below) that show the enormous scale and complexity of each project.

A few jokes at the expense of her staff jarred slightly. Still, most of the audience seemed to be fans, and there’s enough masochism within architecture to interpret this not as rudeness, but as a signifier of genius. Fame and admiration haven’t always come to Hadid though, and later, in the Q&A session, she spoke frankly about how when she started to win projects ‘the knives came out’ from the architectural community.

On the more aspirational side of architecture’s folklore, Paul Anderson-Walsh of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (SLCT) commended ‘the greatest desire of architects – to make better societies’. The SLCT has funded 100 architecture students so far – with 18 already qualified – and is now extending into other professions.

He said the country was sliding into a difficult moment, and needed ‘non-traditional people to engage in non-traditional jobs.’ His message was: ‘If your mind is open
to something good coming from the non-traditional community, then I would be grateful if you could open your doors to them.’

To donate to the Stephen Lawrence Trust please text SLCT18 to 70070 with amount in £ or go to A gala dinner in aid
of the trust will be held at London Zoo on 20 October.

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