Zaha Hadid

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Zaha Hadid was an Iraqi-British architect who received the Pritzker Architecture Prize for the first time as the first Arab woman. She was a pioneer in current avant-garde architecture styles, known for her highly expressive designs characterized by sweeping flowing forms of various perspective points. She was the genius behind the designs of the aquatic center for the London 2012 Olympics and the Broad Art Museum in the United States, among others. She is internationally famous for her experimental styles and inventive ideas. She was born into an affluent family in Baghdad and experienced a privileged education, attending boarding schools in England and Switzerland. She had no doubt in her mind as a young girl that she would one day pursue a professional career. She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before traveling to London to study architecture at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. She is bright and motivated. She finally became a British citizen and opened her own architecture firm, which was a huge success. Her inventive designs and experimental styles drew international attention, and she became a world-renowned architect within a few years. In addition to her architectural profession, she also pursued a teaching career and did some high-profile interior design work.

Childhood and Adolescence

Zaha Mohammad Hadid was born into a prominent family in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 31, 1950. Muhammad al-Hajj Husayn Hadid, her father, was an Iraqi entrepreneur and co-founder of the National Democratic Party. Wajiha al-Sabunji, her mother, was an artist.

The cornerstone of Hadid’s belief that “there was never a question that I would be a professional” was laid by her highly successful father.

She went to a progressive Catholic school during her early years of education. It also featured students who were French, Muslim, and Jewish. She was born into a family of Sunni Muslim Arabs.

Her secondary school education began at Beirut’s ‘American University.’ Her primary interest was mathematics.
She traveled to London in 1972 to pursue her passion for architecture at the ‘Architectural Association.’ She met a number of professors and students here, which led to her becoming a partner at the ‘Office for Metropolitan Architecture,’ which launched her career.

The Career of Zaha

Her illustrious career began in 1977 when she was hired by the ‘Office of Metropolitan Architecture’ and began teaching at the ‘Architectural Association.’

Hadid broke loose in 1980 and established her own practice in London. Today, ‘Zaha Hadid Architects’ employs more than 350 individuals.

The ‘Vitra Fire Station’ in Weil am Rhein, Germany, was her first successful construction project. From 1989 through 1993, the project lasted. Since then, the structure has been converted into a museum.

Her design for the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales was chosen in 1994. This brought her some attention and recognition, but the building was never approved since the city preferred to spend the money on a stadium instead.

In 1998, her design for the ‘Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art’ was chosen as a big success. This was her debut project in the United States, and it received two awards: the ‘Royal Institute of British Architects Award’ in 2004 and the ‘American Architecture Award’ from ‘The Chicago Athenaeum’ the following year.

In the 1990s, she was a lecturer at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture, where she held the Sullivan Chair. She has also served as a visiting professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg (HFBK Hamburg), Ohio State University’s Knowlton School of Architecture, and Columbia University’s Masters Studio.

Her design for the ‘Olympic Aquatic Center’ for the ‘2012 Olympic Games’ was chosen in 2005. Her ideas are currently being constructed for the ‘Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.’

Hadid’s Major Projects

The ‘Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art’ was completed by her in 2003. The New York Times called this the “most important American structure to be finished since the cold war” since it was the first museum designed by a woman in the United States.

Her Maxxi building design won the Stirling Prize in 2010. The national museum is in Rome, and it is described as “a masterwork worthy of standing alongside Rome’s historic treasures.” (Source: The Guardian)

Achievements & Awards

Hadid has received over 100 outstanding medals and distinctions in her lifetime. In 1982, she won her first award for British Architecture, the ‘Gold Medal for Architectural Design.’

She was the first woman and one of the youngest women to receive the ‘Pritzker Prize’ for architecture in 2004. This prize is often regarded as architecture’s highest distinction around the world.

Hadid received the title of Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2012.
Her design for the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre earned the Design Museum Design of the Year Award in 2014.

Personal History and Legacy

Hadid was never married and never had children. She devoted herself totally to her profession. She defied several social preconceptions to become a role model for Muslim women and to open doors for women and Muslims to pursue careers as architects.

On March 31, 2016, Zaha Hadid died of a heart attack in a Miami hospital. She was being treated for bronchitis at the time of her death.

Estimated Net Worth

Zaha Hadid was formerly the world’s highest-paid architect. Her estimated net worth at the time of her death was $215 million, which included her real estate holdings, stock investments, cosmetic partnerships, restaurants, a football team, a vodka company, a top-selling perfume brand, and a fashion line.


She had a successful teaching career at various colleges prior to her renown as an architect. ‘Harvard Graduate School of Design’ and ‘The University of Illinois’ at ‘Chicago’s School of Architecture’ were among them.