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Zaha Hadid becomes the newest Cincinnati kid

Zaha Hadid is to become the first woman to build an art museum in the United States, after clinching the prestigious $25 million job for a Contemporary Arts Centre in Cincinnati.

Hadid's office was chosen to design the new 6500m 2building as 'a cultural destination in downtown Cincinnati' from a shortlist including Daniel Libeskind and Bernard Tschumi. More than 300 firms from around the world showed interest in the competition: the 12-strong longlist included leading names such as Herzog and de Meuron, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Jean Nouvel, Toyo Ito, Antoine Predock and Steven Holl.

According to chair of the selection committee Richard Rosenthal, it was Hadid's 'ability to create dramatic spaces that capture the eye, yet remain functional' which won her unanimous approval.

'Her appointment for our new building marks a great moment for the CAC and for Cincinnati, ' said Charles Desmarais', CAC director. 'Hadid is recognized internationally as one of that special breed who can potentially reshape the world or, at least, the way we perceive it, ' he explained.

Speaking from New York on Monday, an 'excited' Desmarais added: 'We're about promoting the new, and Zaha fits that very much.' The decision was 'adventuresome' and 'risky' in many ways, he said, considering that Hadid had built relatively few buildings, but it was also a reasonable one.

The building will be located on the northwest corner of Sixth and Walnut Streets, in the heart of the city's 'Backstage Entertainment District'. It will include first-floor public access and flexible gallery space, which are features lacking in the organisation's current home. The building will take its place in a city which has only recently seen the opening of Peter Eisenman's Aronoff Center for Design at the University. Around half of the $25million is already in place with fundraising continuing: the city is donating the parcel of land for the site. An affiliate architect will be appointed shortly in the US. It is hoped the building will be complete in 2002.

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