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Zaha Hadid: ‘I’m judged more harshly because I am a woman’

Zaha Hadid
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Zaha Hadid has said that being a woman, a foreigner and doing different work has made it difficult for her in architecture

Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs yesterday (21 February) - the first female architect to appear on the long-running show - she said: ‘I don’t like tough times but I seem to get them all the time. It’s a triple whammy – I’m a woman which is a problem to many people, I’m a foreigner – another problem, and I do work which is not normative, which is not what they expect.

’Together it becomes difficult.’

The Iraqi-born architect told presenter Kirsty Young: ’We are very controversial. Whether it is nice or not I am always in the press. Maybe people are worried or sceptical or whatever.’

The Royal Gold Medal winner said she had a ‘shy side’ and added: ‘I am judged a lot more harshly because I am a woman. I don’t care what people say or think. I do what I like. People are not used to that. If someone bothers me I tell them to poo off. But I am not nasty to people – I am very nice. I am too nice – that’s the truth. I am taken advantage of all the time.’

When asked about compromise, Hadid said: ‘In all projects you have to change things but it’s important that your main idea doesn’t get diluted.’

It was the first interview the starchitect had done with the BBC since radio station since she September when Sarah Montague on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme incorrectly suggested construction workers had died on Hadid’s Qatar 2022 stadium scheme.

Later, during the same show, Hadid was also questioned about the ‘scrapping’ of her Tokyo 2020 stadium scheme at which point the London-based architect ended the interview.

When asked by Young yesterday about Japan and the number of Hadid’s schemes which didn’t get built, Hadid said: ‘I don’t see the point of doing any project which is badly done and has little idea.

‘You need to invest in the city fabric. A lot of the buildings we do are public buildings. It is very important that you invest in the quality of these buildings. You need to create an experience which people are propelled to.’

Asked what advice she would give to students of architecture, she said: ‘Learn a skill. Even thinking and imagining is a skill. A student has to always challenge the topic constantly. Push the boundaries all the time. It is an amazing moment of experimentation.’

Zaha Hadid’s Desert Island Discs

These foolish things by Bryan Ferry: ‘I used to sing it’

The Ruins by Umm Kulthum: ‘It’s by an Egyptian singer. It reminds me of being a young girl in Baghdad’

Hey Jude by The Beatles

Everybody’s talkin’ by Harry Nilsson: ‘From Midnight Cowboy – one of my favourite films’

Holding back the years by Simply Red: ‘This reminds me of my office and that period in the early 90s. Architects are crazy - we used to do all-nighters. Five days without sleep. I didn’t mind it. I had a great time. I stayed up all night through caffeine and smoking.’

Hotline bling by Drake

Someone like you by Adele: ‘She has a great voice. This was my tune of the summer of the Olympics. I listened to it over and over.’

Stay with me by Sam Smith 

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Nice to hear some straight talking, especially if it spoilt a Welsh politician's lunch.
    She was talking to Kirsty Young, not Kirsty Wark.

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  • Gabriela Igelsias

    I think that the argument regarding discrimination to the female gender or to the birth nationality is a bit dated , we are now in 2016!!! may be Zaha is to high in its own pedestal and cannot admitt that there are people disliking her work or and her personality or both. She is the last person who can claim discrimination, she has been positioned on top and above many men colleagues although some of them are equaly or more talented than her. It is time she stops these arguments which are childish and pathetic . I am a woman, born outside UK, a non European . with my own practice in the Uk and since 1984 to the present have never ever felt discrimination of any kind!! So please do a profession a favour and stop crying discrimination each time some body critizise you or your work!!!! People have the right to like you and your work or to dislike both!

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