Baghdad-born architect Zaha Hadid has won the 2016 RIBA Royal Gold Medal in recognition of her lifetime’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.
Hadid, described by RIBA president Jane Duncan as a ‘formidable and globally influential force in architecture’, won the Stirling Prize in both 2010 and 2011 with her MAXXI Museum in Rome and the Evelyn Grace Academy in London respectively.
Duncan said: ‘Highly experimental, rigorous and exacting, her work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, is quite rightly revered and desired by brands and people all around the world. I am delighted Zaha will be awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 2016 and can’t wait to see what she and her practice will do next.’
Hadid set up her practice in London in 1979, but didn’t get the chance to build her first major project until the early 1990s when she designed the Vitra fire station in Germany.
The 64 year old, whose company now employs 418 people around the globe, joins the likes of Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto and Mies van der Rohe in being awarded the prestigious prize.
Speaking today, Hadid said: ‘I am very proud to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal, in particular, to be the first woman to receive the honour in her own right. I would like to thank Peter Cook, Louisa Hutton and David Chipperfield for the nomination and Jane Duncan and the Honours Committee for their support. We now see more established female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense.
Sometimes the challenges are immense
‘There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress. This recognition is an honour for me and my practice, but equally, for all our clients. It is always exciting to collaborate with those who have great civic pride and vision.
She added: ‘Part of architecture’s job is to make people feel good in the spaces where we live, go to school or where we work - so we must be committed to raising standards. Housing, schools and other vital public buildings have always been based on the concept of minimal existence – that shouldn’t be the case today. Architects now have the skills and tools to address these critical issues.’
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).
Hadid will be officially handed the medal next February.
Read an exclusive interview with Zaha Hadid here.