Welcome back to #ModernistMondays! At TTC, we are constantly inspired by modernist architects and artists from past and present. To showcase some of our favorites, we launched #ModernistMondays, where we highlight one modernist each month to explore with ten quick facts. You can keep up with #ModernistMondays on the TTC Blog, or our Instagram page! Our June pick is the incomparable “queen of the curve,” Zaha Hadid. While she is not considered by all to be a Modernist, we are adapting #ModernistMondays to (Mostly) Modernist Mondays this month, as we feel this barrier-breaking architect is more than deserving of a feature.
A young Zaha Hadid
Born in Iraq in 1950 to a wealthy family, Zaha Hadid decided at age eleven that she would be an architect. Traveling often during childhood, she was exposed to various styles of architecture and lifestyles, which helped her gain a sense of the world. Her father took her to important buildings and museums in each location that they traveled to, which she credited for her love of buildings.
She studied under famed architects such as Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis, and Bernard Tschumi at the Architectural Association in London. There she designed the Malevich Tektonik hotel as her graduation project, which showed the world her unique style and fearlessness. At her graduation ceremony, Koolhaas called her “a planet in her own orbit.”
A painting of The Peak, 1991
In 1980, after working at Koolhaas’s firm for a few years, Hadid founded Zaha Hadid Architects in London. She frequently painted her ideas, rather than sketching in pencil, as it allowed for more curved forms and less restriction. Her proposal for The Peak in Hong Kong was not built, but gained international acclaim and established her firm as a leader in modern architecture.
Before completing more built work, Hadid taught architecture at the Architectural Association, Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge University, and Columbia University. In 1988, her paintings were exhibited at the MoMA in New York. Although her work was lauded, many people thought that her designs would be too difficult to construct, which led to countless rejections.
The 1988 MoMA exhibit featuring Hadid
In the 1990s, Hadid met her business partner, Patrik Schumacher, and around that time began to see her projects approved for construction. She built the Vitra Fire Station and housing project in Germany and worked on London’s Millennium Dome.
Vitra Fire Station
As her career took off with built work, Hadid designed the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Ohio, and the Bergisel Ski-Jump in Austria, which expressed her ability to work in very different landscapes and design functional spaces without compromising her creative vision.
Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
In 2004, Zaha Hadid became the first female winner of the Pritzker Prize, a huge milestone for women in architecture and design.
In 2005, Hadid built the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany, which ushered in a new style, Parametricism, which “implies that all elements of the design become parametrically variable and mutually adaptive.” She completed The MAXXI, a museum in Italy, the Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan, Guangzhou Opera House in China, and London Aquatics Centre.
Heydar Aliyev Center
Guangzhou Opera House
While some of Hadid’s projects were criticized for their flamboyance and boldness, she is considered one of the leading architects of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Guardian named her the “queen of the curve.” In 2012, she was made a Dame by the Queen of England.
Hadid passed away suddenly in 2016, after dedicating her life to her work. Now known as one of the most celebrated architects of all time, she has broken boundaries, brought her once-doubted creative genius to life, and inspired thousands of modern architects around the world. Zaha Hadid Architects continues to find success under the leadership of Hadid’s closest business colleague, Patrik Schumaker.
One of Hadid’s final portraits
SOURCES: The Art Story, “Zaha Hadid;” Bocadolobo, “The Greatest Modern Architects You Need to Know;” Zaha Hadid Architects, “About Us;” Britannica, “Zaha Hadid”