The BBC has made a public apology over misleading comments made in a radio interview with Hadid which suggested construction workers had died on her Qatar 2022 stadium project
The AJ understands the broadcaster has also apologised privately to the architect following a fractious exchange with presenter Sarah Montague on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
During the show on Thursday morning (24 September) Hadid - who eventually cut the interview short - was grilled about the working conditions in Qatar.
In a question which appeared to reference estimates by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) that there had been 1,200 deaths on building projects in the Arab emirate in the three years to 2014, Montague said: ‘One of your buildings is the Qatar stadium where there have been considerable problems, not least the number of deaths.’
Hadid, who launched a lawsuit for defamation against the New York Review of Books over the same allegations last year, responded: ‘There have not been any problems actually, I have to put you right, there has not been a single problem at the Qatar stadium.’
Montague went on: ‘But more than 1,200 migrant workers have died there’.
The architect replied: ‘Absolutely not true. We sued somebody for writing that, and saying that, and it had to be withdrawn from the press. It is absolutely inaccurate.’
Hadid was then questioned about the ‘scrapping’ of her Tokyo 2020 stadium scheme at which point the London-based architect ended the interview.
The tone of the programme sparked an outcry from architects with many taking to twitter to voice their anger.
The BBC has now said sorry for suggesting there had been any deaths on the al-Wakrah stadium project and posted an apology on the Radio 4 website.
The apology reads: ‘The ITUC’s figure of 1200 construction deaths which was quoted on this morning’s programme refers to the whole of Qatar, and not specifically to the main World Cup stadium site.
‘We are sorry we didn’t make this clear in this morning’s interview with Dame Zaha Hadid. We are happy to accept there is no evidence of deaths at the main stadium site.’
Following the broadcast, a number of architects including architect Julyan Wickham and Tom Pike wrote to the corporation demanding it apologise for the allegations and the way in which Hadid had been questioned (see letters 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.’