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Jiricna on Hadid: 'She knew that one day she would succeed'

Zaha Hadid
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In just a short period Zaha Hadid acheved more than several large practices put together, says Eva Jiřičná

I knew Zaha for more or less 40 years. I met her as a brilliant student, later on as a teacher and a young architect fighting to be recognised, and eventually I was able to watch her brilliant journey through the architectural ‘playground’.

My first memories of her are her paintings. She was a party girl and she always had friends around. And we were all sitting in a interior of a Victorian school full of Zaha’s brilliant paintings – abstract indeed, but so architectural as well.

At that point I somehow felt she was going to make it. She was also one of the very few women who took architecture dead seriously. She always worked extremely hard and she never lost a minute to discuss the subject which at one point or other occupied her mind.

I do remember endless discussions on the theme of Russian Constructivists and her desire to bring them up to daylight to give them – as she called it – some justice.

I watched her deliver lectures with beautiful images which the audience considered ‘unbuildable’

We were often invited to the same conferences and I watched her deliver long lectures with beautiful dreamlike images which were – by most of the audience – considered ’unbuildable’ (she showed the same images during her Gold Medal presentation and suddenly they look so clearly understandable). It obviously irritated her but she never gave in. She knew deeply in herself that one day she would succeed.

She always referred to herself – including in the first words of her Gold Medal acceptance speech – as having been misunderstood. But her moment eventually came when Rolf Fehlbaum of Vitra asked her to design the Fire Station in Weil am Rhein. He was the one who recognised her talent and put his money on her future. She has never forgotten it – he has always been her best friend. 

For me Zaha will remain a person with an extraordinary, multi-faceted talent who gave all her energy to architecture. She did not get defeated by the difficulty of succeeding as a woman and as a foreigner. She was a fighter with a brilliant intellectual ability to defend herself.

In a relatively short time she accomplished more than several large architectural practices put together. She was never overshadowed by any male architect and yet she is always referred to as the ’best woman architect’, a term which I personally find hurtful and demeaning. She has joined the platform of Le Corbusier or Frank Lloyd Wright with nobody’s support and she has changed architecture for ever.

The most important thing to me and those close to her is that she was a loyal friend with a big heart. And that is where she will remain for me. I am grateful for what I learned from her and I am grateful to have known her. My God, I will miss her!


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