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Hadid defends libel action against US publication over Qatar article

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Zaha Hadid has defended her decision to sue for libel over an article accusing her of showing ‘no concern’ for the deaths of construction workers in Qatar

In an interview with the AJ published this week, Hadid also suggested that architects working overseas could help workers suffering poor conditions if they formed ‘some sort of alliance’. And she hit out at London’s £2 billion King’s Cross development, calling it ‘totally dull’.

Speaking for the first time about the legal action against the New York Review of Books, Hadid said: ‘The suit was really to correct a mistake. I wasn’t suing the guy because he said some horrible thing, it’s because he made a mistake.’

The article, by architecture critic Martin Filler, alleged that 1,000 workers had died on her Al-Wakrah stadium site in Qatar - even though work had not actually started on the project. Filler has since issued a retraction.

Responding to questions about working conditions in Qatar, Hadid said: ‘Architects don’t have this power [to change working conditions] but maybe they could if they are all on it together to form some sort of an alliance to help these people.’

Former construction minister Nick Raynsford MP, who has previously criticised Hadid over Qatar, called on her to go further. He said: ‘People working overseas highlight these problems all the time. Hadid is in an incredibly strong position. She can say: “This causes me discomfort, it can be done better”.’

Jill Wells, senior policy and research adviser at Engineers Against Poverty, which has campaigned on behalf of workers in Qatar, added: ‘Many voices are certainly better than one and many organisations are actually trying to raise this issue.

‘The RIBA could join the human rights and other organisations.  This is clearly what Hadid is pushing for. But they won’t because architects like to just wash their hands of anything to do with the gritty business of construction.’

Hadid, who was speaking after winning the new £5 million mathematics gallery at the Science Museum last week, also criticised the 27ha King’s Cross development. ‘King’s Cross is a completely blank canvas.  They could have done something there which was incredible, and instead it is totally dull,’ she said.
Peter Bishop, Bartlett professor of urban design and former head of planning at Camden Council, who led negotiations over the development of King’s Cross, said:

‘Zaha’s comments have missed the point … King’s Cross was and is radical. It is socially radical, it has achieved nearly 50 per cent affordable housing and a range of facilities for the wider community.’

Read an interview with Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher

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