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Zaha's death has brought the recognition she always deserved

Christine Murray
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Her maverick, singular talent blazed a trail for women in architecture, says Christine Murray

With her formidable determination and originality in design, we felt that Zaha Hadid’s star was too bright to stop shining – and so soon.  

We th­ought we would have time, another 15 years or more, to appreciate the evolving work of her practice. With so many projects now in development, the full impact of her built legacy is yet to come.

Underneath the sadness and shock at Hadid’s sudden death is a palpable collective guilt that – even with a damehood and a successful 400-strong practice – full recognition was not forthcoming in the UK. It is only recently that ambitious clients have given her the scope and mandate to build out her theoretical visions for an architecture of porosity and flow – and none of these in the country she called home.

Last year, when Zaha received the RIBA Gold Medal, it marked a long-overdue welcome into the canon. And yet the subsequent debacle of her scandalous treatment on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme broke any illusion that Hadid had finally made it. The celebratory interview-turned-interrogation showed she was still, as she described later on Desert Island Discs, ‘dangling’ on the edge of the establishment: not quite in, not quite out.

The outpouring of tributes following the news of her death have included as fact the injustice of the Cardiff decision and the institutional discriminatory barriers to Zaha’s progress. In the words of Richard Rogers in the Sunday Times: ‘Her gender meant that people described her in words they would never have used about me. Where we might be called ambitious, Zaha would be dismissed as pushy. If we were forthright, she was bossy. But she never submitted to being patronised.’

Neither have the trolls left her alone in death, with comments on Twitter or below op eds citing worker deaths in Qatar, even though the blameless Hadid, with not a single fatality on her stadium site, even donated the funds from her successful libel suit against The New York Review of Books to a workers’ rights charity.

The tragedy is that her death has brought the deserved recognition late – Hadid is rightly being heralded in appropriately celebratory terms for her maverick, singular talent and her increasingly powerful ability to get once-thought-unbuildable projects built, with the requisite detailing beyond reproach.

As for me, I am grateful for all the support Hadid gave in the creation of the Women in Architecture Awards – work that she saw as vitally important in beating a path for those who came after. And what a path: wide open and clear.

A book of condolence for Zaha Hadid will be available to sign at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London on Thursday 7 and Friday 8 April between 2pm and 7pm 

Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid

Source: Luke Hayes

Zaha Hadid

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Zaha Hadid is a 'confirmation that in UK is very difficult that foreign architect be able to build in a short period of time. Despite having studied at the AA after nearly 20 years since the opening of its London office in Clerkenwell (1979) she was able to build its first UK completed building Maggie's Cancer Care Centre (2006). This should definitely change and I hope that England does not get out of EU because things would reverse against this Country! Anyway, thanks Christine for the nice article.

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