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Duncan on Hadid: ‘She has taken her place in the architectural canon'

Zaha Hadid
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RIBA president Jane Duncan said Zaha Hadid had ‘finally taken her rightful place in the architectural canon’ on handing the architect the institute’s Royal Gold Medal 

Hadid, who is the first woman to be recognised individually with the 167-year-old accolade, was given the award in recognition of her lifetime’s work at a ceremony at RIBA’s Portland Place HQ last night (3 February).

Duncan added: ‘Zaha represents the pinnacle in architectural aspiration. She is a truly wonderful artist as well as an architect. Zaha has taught us all to dream.’ 

The double Stirling Prize-winner was nominated for the award by architects Peter Cook, David Chipperfield and Louisa Hutton. She joins a long list of past recipients, which includes Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Frank Lloyd Wright and Joseph Rykwert. 

Hadid was accompanied by long-time collaborator Patrik Schumacher and, on receiving the award, said: ‘Patrik deserves this medal as much as I do.’ 

John Wilson, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Front Row magazine programme, led a conversation with the acclaimed architect, in which she spoke candidly about her practice and projects. 

The Iraqi-born Pritkzer Prize-winner put her success down to collaboration. 

She said: ‘I believe in team work. Collaboration is very important. More than 1,200 people have passed through my practice in the past 30 years.’ 

She added that she had stayed in London, despite previously saying she has struggled to get work in the city, on account of its ‘good engineers’. 

Speaking about the infamous Cardiff Opera House job, Hadid said it ‘still hurt’, adding: ‘But there would have been more damage done to me if I’d done that project. They would have shredded me. I was very upset but we were a young office and had lots of energy and we moved on.’ 

Hadid started her architectural journey in 1972, studying at the progressive Architectural Association in London. She joined her former professors, Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, where she became a partner in 1977.

She set up her own studio two years later and garnered a global reputation for her trail-blazing theoretical works, including The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994).

Read Peter Cook’s Royal Gold Medal citation

Cardiff Bay Opera House, model by Zaha Hadid

Cardiff Bay Opera House, model by Zaha Hadid

Cardiff Bay Opera House, model by Zaha Hadid

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