Questions over working conditions in Qatar led to Zaha Hadid taking court action in the US in 2014
Despite the fact that Zaha Hadid’s Al Wakrah stadium for the 2022 World Cup has not yet broken ground, brand Zaha has become a lightning rod for concern over the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar.
The saga began when Hadid was asked about the issue by the Guardian in February. This followed the newspaper’s shocking report that the International Trade Union Confederation was predicting 4,000 fatalities on World Cup-related sites unless Qatar improved its site welfare.
Hadid replied: ‘I think that’s an issue the government – if there’s a problem – should pick up … It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.’
Critics leapt on the comments. MP and former construction minister Nick Raynsford lamented the fact that the world’s most famous female architect was apparently unwilling to use her influence – and positive association with health and safety exemplar the London 2012 Aquatics Centre – to improve conditions for workers.
And US architecture critic Martin Filler was forced to issue a public apology for his response after Hadid launched libel proceedings. Filler, writing in the New York Review of Books, had accused Hadid of ‘disavowing responsibility’ for the poor conditions suffered by workers, but had also wrongly claimed that thousands had died on the Al Wakrah stadium scheme.
Reflecting on the episode in an interview with AJ in September, Hadid defended her suing of the journalist, but also raised the prospect of architects uniting to aid the forces of reform, saying: ‘Architects don’t have this power [to change working conditions] but maybe they could if they are all on it together to form some sort of an alliance to help these people.’