The greatest female architect, Zaha Hadid, has departed our world

Dame Hadid, arguably the greatest female architect of her generation died on 31 March 2016, of a heart attack in a Miami hospital, where she was being treated for bronchitis.

With great sorrow and sadness, she has departed our world at relatively, a young age of 65, and her passing is considered an enormous loss. She was born in Baghdad in 1950, the daughter of Mohammad Hadid, an industrialist and Iraq’s former finance minister, in the government of Brigadier Abdul Karim Qassim. She studied Mathematics in the American University of Beirut prior to moving, in 1972, to London to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. In 1980, she established her own London-based architecture practice.

A noted British architect, Lord Rogers described Zaha Hadid as “a great architect, a wonderful woman and wonderful person”.

Dame Hadid was a “visionary and highly experimental, her legacy, despite her young age, is formidable” Jane Duncan, RIBA’s president, told the Guardian newspaper.

Her global impact was profound and her legacy will be felt for many years to come because she shifted the culture of architecture and the way that we experience buildings” according to another Stirling prize winner Amanda Levete.

Tributes have poured in after the announcement of her death was made, on Thursday, 31 March 16 from prominent architects, the British culture minister, the Mayor of London, the Iraqi Government, and Tamara Rojo of the British National Ballet, to name just few.

Her inspirational talents won her many awards, which were all in recognition of her visionary and pioneering, and ground-breaking theoretical works.  In an interview a few years ago with Channel 4, she said that she struggled a great deal at the beginning of her career being woman in her field.   She was very proud of her origin as an Iraqi and became a shining beacon to young Iraqi female students.  The substantial body of her work was not only beautiful and artistic but reflected a new sense of modernism and futurism she had envisioned for the world.

Her early work includes several conceptual designs that were not realised including the Cardiff Bay Opera, Trafalgar Square and several projects in Germany including the Hamburg Docklands, and the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. Her first realised project was the Vitra Fire Station in Germany followed by several major international projects including the BMW Central Building, Leipzig, the Guangzhou Opera House, China and the MAXXI – National Museum of the 21st Century Arts in Rome, Italy which was the winner of the 2010 Stirling Prize Award. Her most notable projects are the Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre in Baku and the London Aquatics Centre for the London 2012 Olympics.

Her work includes over 950 designs covering 44 countries, which in itself is a breath-taking accomplishment featuring innovation, quality and a depth of immaculate designs, and their precise implementations.

Hadid was, in her own right, the first female to receive the prestigious RIBA Gold Medal in 2015 and was also the first female recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. Dame Hadid was the recipient of the Stirling Prize two years in a row. Other awards include the Republic of France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale.  Hadid was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2002 and Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to architecture, the first woman of Arab origin to have such an honour.

Zaha Hadid was in many ways a person of our own and was a good friend to the Al-Kindi Society, and we collaborated closely with her office, last of which, in hosting our world class conference in January 2016 on Iraq Architecture and the Planning.

She will surely be missed by the architecture community and the world of art, science and engineering in general.  For Iraq, she was always the loving, loyal and faraway daughter waving high like a flag.  Her memory and in particular, her work has written many pages in the history of architecture, which will live on to inspire many generations to come.

Dr Najah Kadhim


Al-Kindi Society for Engineers