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Anger as Zaha grilled on BBC Today Programme

The profession has been angered by a ‘twisted’ interview in which Zaha Hadid was questioned over Tokyo stadium and workers rights in Qatar

Hadid, who was on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to discuss her Royal Gold Medal win, walked away from the interview after she was grilled over her scrapped Tokyo stadium project.

When quizzed by interviewer Sarah Montague about ‘soaring costs’ and Hadid walking away from the scheme, the architect replied: ‘I pulled out because we did not have a contractor to go with. This is a very serious story and it should be reported accurately. It is a scandal.

‘We won this competition almost three years ago. It was an international competition entered by many Japanese architects and we won it.’

Hadid was also questioned over deaths of construction workers on her al-Wakrah stadium in Qatar. Last year a report by the International Trade Union Confederation estimated there had been 1,200 deaths on building projects in the Arab emirate in the three years to 2014.

However the architect has always maintained that none of those were on the site of her proposed 2022 World Cup stadium and in September last year Hadid called for an alliance of architects to lobby for improved conditions for workers in the area.

In January Hadid also donated the settlement cash from her lawsuit for defamation against the New York Review of Books over the same issue to an unnamed labour rights organisation (AJ 26.01.15).

Responding to Montague’s question‘One of your buildings is the Qatar stadium where there have been considerable problems, not least the number of deaths.’

Hadid replied: ‘There have not been any problems actually, I have to put you right, there has not been a single problem at the Qatar stadium.’

When Montague asked again about the reports of deaths, Hadid added: ‘There have been no deaths on our site whatsoever…You should check your information before you say anything.’

The questioning on the programme sparked an outcry from architects with many taking to twitter to voice their anger.

Cany Ash, tweeted: ‘Sickened by lack of interest or empathy from @BBCr4today in architecture; twisted hostile interview with Dame Zaha re RIBA Gold Medal’.

Also tweeting, Hicham Yezza, said: ‘Shocking interview with Zaha Hadid on #r4today, a woman wins a prestigious architecture prize and gets interrogated like she’s a shoplifter.’

While Claire Fox, tweeted: ‘I absolutely love Zaha Hadid but especially now that she’s stood her ground on @BBCr4today. She won Gold medal FGS. Don’t attack her with misinformation.’

A RIBA spokesperson added: ‘[We were] surprised and disappointed by the focus of the Radio 4 Today programme interview with Dame Zaha Hadid this morning.

‘Of course the BBC has a right to explore controversial issues, but we are very saddened that the interview failed to give appropriate weight to today’s celebration – Dame Zaha being named as the recipient of one of the world’s most important honours.’

Architect Julyan Wickham of Wickham van Eyck Architects has already written to the BBC demanding the organisation apologises for the ‘deleterious, untruthful and impolite questions’ Montague asked Hadid (see letter attached). Tom Pike, partner at Giles Pike Architects & Interior Designers, has written a similar letter (see letter attached).

The 64 year old architect was being interviewed on receipt of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in recognition of her life’s work.

She is the first woman to be sole recipient of the 167-year-old accolade – previous female winners Sheila O’Donnell (2015), Patty Hopkins (1994) and Ray Eames (1979) were all recognised alongside their husbands and practice partners.

Zaha Hadid Architects’ official statement about the al-Wakrah stadium project:
‘Since all works began at the al-Wakrah stadium site in 2013, the construction crews have now completed more than 1.2million working hours on the site with no accidents causing lost time. The authorities in Qatar managing the al-Wakrah site operate the highest levels of workers’ health, safety and welfare.’

Readers' comments (3)

  • if you ask a serious question you should allow time to receive a serious answer.

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  • Well when the Today programme interviewed Shakespeare the interviewer asked if it was true he was just a political mouthpiece for the queen, why had he abandoned his wife and child and gone to London, was it true he participated in gay orgies at the Globe and what did he feel about his plays being called racist, anti-semitic and sexist?

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  • Oh come on! The interview was fine and Zaha put the facts straight. Shame she walked out because I would have liked to hear more...

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