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Peter Cook: ‘She had the priority of a clear, powerful and ever-poetic architecture’

Zaha Hadid and Peter Cook
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Archigram founder Peter Cook remembers the ‘immense talent’ of Zaha Hadid, who died yesterday (31 March) aged just 65

Zaha: the Great Light extinguished.

From every point of view exceptional as a direct, original, fearless personality, with a more than adequate supply of charm and humour, used with more discretion than blandness.

Immense talent, such that it either inspired, bewildered, or caused deep jealousy (that manifests itself in lesser talent to pick away at her motives, reputation or personality). 

Thirteen years ago, the other giant, Cedric Price, died. Different animal, but leaving a similar void. London – and the architecture world – now seems lost. We are now bereft of that most precious and mysterious quality: power through inspiration and talent plus bags of personality that rendered both of them as beacons of hope for architecture. 

‘Sticking to one’s guns’ is an amazing gift. Zaha told it as it is; she had the priority of a clear, powerful and ever-poetic architecture. Many tried to copy it but lacked her deftness of line.

And the line was more than a line; it so easily and frequently resulted in a spatial exploration of extraordinary newness – the wonder of the interior of the Aliyev Centre in Baku remains in one’s mind as a dream. The sharp, clean, razor-like dart of the Vitra Fire Station has the purity of an ‘early period’ Zaha building – but you’re actually inside it, living the dream of the drawing. 

From the first years when this conspicuously talented recent student became the lively attachment to Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis’s young OMA setup, you were aware of a strength of talent bursting out.  

Her trajectory and example, stand there beckoning the many women (now maybe a majority) who work in architecture – if she can do it, they can do it. Let’s hope one or two of them out there can blend talent with personality – the latter gift being a necessary factor in order to sustain the pressure in this, most contrary, profession. 

A loyal friend who could also be a good laugh. 

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