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Zaha Hadid. A visionary architect – abstraction, creativity, and rationality


Zaha Hadid. A visionary architect – abstraction, creativity, and rationality


Zaha Hadid is the first female Starchitect (Baghdad, 1950) who managed to explore every field of contemporary creativity in an incredible mix of research, design, planning, and communication. Her way of working was definitely innovative, and her stylistic signature quite distinguishable. Hadid was able to shift with simplicity from jewellery design to building projects, master plans, fashion, and communication. Her office was a true contemporary cultural workshop. Shortly before her premature death, her studio had projects in several continents and in different sectors. Surprisingly, the architect Zaha Hadid landed to the world of design and architectural design from a scientific background. Her first qualification was a degree in Mathematics. Her knowledge in this field was what provided the opportunity of unleashing her creative imagination and of drawing volumes and shapes that led her to worldwide fame. However, her inclination to shapes, volumes and mathematical calculation were not the only peculiarities of the architect. Ever since she was a student at the “Architecture Association School” in London, her engagement with 20th century intellectuals has led to the development of a personal research path and to a rupture with the traditional vision of architecture in favour of an unconventional and innovative one. She managed to do so through her passion for the figurative arts, especially abstractionism. One of her points of reference was the painter Malevic. The two-dimensional style of painting took shape in a new spatial vision, presented in large canvases, where coloured abstract segments move in spaces, and where the Cartesian coordinate system has no longer any value. The graphic and pictorial experiences of abstractionism and the scientific knowledge supporting her dreams combined in a mixture that worked well. An example of this is the Aquatic Centre in London, where the studio used new algorithms (digital architecture) to create a cover, which recalls the sinuosity of a sea wave in its movement. However, some works gave her international prominence: the Vitra Campus Fire Station, built in 1993 in Germany, the arts centre in Cincinnati, the Maxxi in Rome. A key feature of Hadid’s work is that it is able to amaze, to fascinate bystanders by getting in their feelings and by making them enjoy the spaces. This is what happens for example in the Maxxi in Rome, where on Saturday mornings young people meet in the square in front of the entrance to the museum.
Zaha Hadid was the first woman architect to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2004 and in 2010 Time magazine included her among the 100 most influential personalities in the world.
If we were to summarize Hadid’s work, we could highlight three aspects that are common in all her works. Every architect works on spaces, but Zaha Hadid searches for unconventional spaces aiming at the integration with nature, integration with places. Indeed, her studies in mathematical sciences and her early interest in the painting movement of abstractionism have led the architect to recognize an unconventional vision of the world in shapes and to move forward in architectural language. The second aspect is that of the game of contrasts used to reinforce the spaces and lines. There is an alternation of full and empty spaces, open and closed spaces, translucent and opaque areas. The third key to Hadid’s work is the search for integration with nature. It may seem odd that an architect so attentive to the rigour of mathematical science can at the same time take an interest in nature. However, this is probably the feature of someone coming from the world of science, who later embraced a different discipline, as if she were an outsider; it is the ability to see beyond, to feed her imagination.

“Entering an architectural space, people should experience a feeling of harmony as if they were in a natural landscape.”

Zaha Hadid

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