Zaha Hadid: How did she change architecture and its treatment of women?

​Initially dubbed the “paper architect”, Dame Zaha Hadid’s plans were once perceived to be unbuildable. For years her designs struggled to move beyond the sketch phrase and be transformed into bricks and mortar.

Nevertheless, this did not last long. Thanks to her unshakeable determination and fierce dynamism, the Iraqi-born British architect became known as the architect who succeeded in building the unbuildable.

Today Dame Zaha’s ongoing legacy which is imprinted in buildings around the world is being honoured with a Google Doodle. The tech giant chose 30 May because on this day in 2004 she became the first woman to win the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize.

(Google Doodle)

Dame Zaha, who was widely seen as the greatest female architect of contemporary times, reshaped architecture for the modern epoch. The esteemed but divisive artist, who died of a heart attack at the age of 65 last spring, was known for designs such as the London Olympic Aquatic Centre and the Guangzhou Opera House. 

Her plentiful buildings were commissioned by countries across the world including America, China and Switzerland and include the London Olympics, Glasgow’s Riverside Museum, the Cardiff Bay Opera House and the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar. 

Dubbed a diva, the caffeine-loving, chain-smoking “Queen of the Curve” who won the Stirling Prize twice, was also famed for her larger than life personality. 

Speaking about her tremendous acclaim in receiving the Gold Medal back in 2015, the artist, architect and designer said she still did not feel like she belonged to the establishment. 

Nevertheless, she did admit: “I suppose I must be part of the establishment now. I’ve always been independent and because I’m ‘flamboyant’ I’ve always been seen as difficult. As a woman in architecture, you’re always an outsider. It’s OK, I like being on the edge.”

This brings us to the question of how Dame Hadid revolutionised modern architecture…

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