Zaha Hadid’s Legacy
Known for her sensuous, futuristic postmodernist style of architecture, Dame Zaha Hadid has established herself as one of the most famous architects in recent times. The world lost a brilliant mind when Hadid passed away unexpectedly at the age of 65 but even though her great career has been cut short, she left behind an impressive legacy through the renowned Zaha Hadid Architects firm that still tackles outstanding building projects.
Zaha Hadid was born in 1950 in Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq. She graduated in mathematics after studying abroad and she later received her training in architecture in London. This is also the location where she opened her own firm in 1980. Ever since the beginnings of her work in architecture, Hadid set very large expectations for herself. She pursued extensive research and imbued her works with innovative creativity to go beyond spatial limitations and ordinary schemes.
Despite the initial difficulties in her career as many of her first building projects didn’t see the light of day, Zaha Hadid persevered to establish herself as a new force in the world of architecture. She maintained an inspiring attitude to fight against various roadblocks on the path to success. It’s no secret that Hadid faced sexism in her profession considering that architecture is traditionally dominated by men. Maintaining a gender-neutral demeanor allowed her to survive in the ruthless world of architecture and earned her the nickname “Queen of the Curve”.
Zaha Hadid’s Honors and Awards
Zaha Hadid is known for receiving the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, an impressive feat considering she’s the first woman in history to accomplish this in 2004. This great award has been given to Hadid not just for contributions to the world of architecture but also to honor her unique vision and problem-solving skills. Obtaining the highest prize in the field has truly cemented Hadid’s reputation and shattered gender stereotypes as well.
There’s quite an extensive list of honors and awards that Hadid received over the duration of her career in architecture. She gained further recognition by earning the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011, which is considered to be the most important architecture award in the UK. Being made a Dame by Elizabeth II represents a great honor that Hadid received in 2012 for her outstanding contributions to the field of architecture. Other important awards include the Royal Gold Medal that was received by the Iraqi-British architect in 2016, the year of her death.
Aside from the various awards obtained in the field of architecture, Zaha Hadid’s strong influence brought some notable honors such as being ranked 69th on a famous list of the most powerful women made by Forbes. Her unique vision and thinking have been very inspiring and recognized around the world, especially in the UK. Hadid was considered one of the most powerful women in the UK when she earned multiple awards on Debrett’s list and Woman’s Hour.
Zaha Hadid’s Architectural Style
Defining Zaha Hadid’s architectural style is not an easy task, because she doesn’t fit a typical pattern or category. Hadid avoided a specific label that she could use to describe her style, mostly due to the fact that she strived to create a different design system that set itself apart from the traditional conventions of drawing. Hadid has made a considerable impression on the architectural landscape due to her revolutionary postmodernist approach. The architectural style that’s most often associated with Hadid is called deconstructivism. As the name suggests, this design technique involves taking various forms apart and controlling them in different ways to create unique works. There’s always a sense of unexpected that defined Hadid’s architectural projects and contributed to worldwide recognition in the field.
The innovative approach of Zaha Hadid to the field of architecture has made her works being described using terms such as neo-futurism and parametricism. A notable aspect of her work as an architect is the way she preferred incorporating painting to bring to life conceptual designs. It’s somewhat surprising that Hadid continued drawing projects by hand even after technologies in the field started to embrace computerized assistance. She didn’t want to limit her creativity through the use of a computer.
Projects took shape with the help of large paintings that incorporate fluid and geometrical forms. This is where the influence of deconstructivism is most obvious because this design process allowed Hadid to break down and manipulate the parts and pieces. She fully embraced modernist approaches in her projects where she felt that her inventiveness could be unleashed. However, existing typologies weren’t appealing to her architectural mind because she always preferred to “re-form” the space by evoking the beauty of geometry. From sharp angles and curving facades to materials like steel and glass, the architectural works of Hadid can be most easily characterized as futuristic and turning convention on its head.
When it comes to Zaha Hadid’s works, there are lots of interesting buildings and structures to see that show off her signature flowing style. Check out some of the most incredible works that seem to defy gravity and create an imposing look packed full of dramatic shapes and striking curves. It’s safe to say that many contemporary and future architects can draw inspiration from her mind-blowing projects.
1. Phaeno Science Center
Hadid won a RIBA European award for the futuristic design of the massive Phaeno Science Center located in Wolfsburg, Germany. This is among the most iconic building projects designed by the famous Iraqi-born architect. Although there were other designs in the competition for this building, Hadid’s concept managed to stand out because it embodied the futuristic and elegant appeal of science. It was considered an excellent solution for the purpose of the building.
The huge exterior look can easily attract potential viewers to the science center. It was built to create the illusion of floating. Enormous concrete panels have been used together with sharp angles and looming curves that blend beautifully in a daring sight. The museum appears to resemble a heavy concrete ship from the outside and the interior is just as impressive. There’s an exposed steel roof framework that contributes to the futuristic aesthetic while the asymmetric scatterings of windows bring an innovative feel that matches the theme of the museum.
2. Guangzhou Opera House
Designed by Hadid to complement the riverside setting, the opera house in Guangzhou, China can be regarded as one of the most notable works of this architect. It’s crafted with a dazzling glass structure that appears to be flowing like a stream over pebbles. The opera house is stunning during the night but appears even more eye-catching during the day when light floods it. The building had a major contribution to establishing a significant cultural district in Guangzhou.
Hadid’s design for this project drew inspiration from the form of smoothed pebbles. She applied this flowing concept to the structure’s transparent areas. The result is a folding design that turned the opera house into an iconic attraction. Thanks to the river nearby, the building offers a solid opportunity for picturesque photographs. The interior of the opera house is also quite striking due to the design of the main auditorium that has beautiful panels with molded-in shapes and brilliant lights resembling a starry sky.
3. Vitra Fire Station
The first design project of Zaha Hadid that has been built completely deserves an important mention on this list of her works. It’s a commission for designing the Vitra fire station in Weil am Rhein, a small town in Germany. The building was realized in 1994 and it’s relevant to notice the initial promising details that later defined the style of Zaha Hadid’s more ambitious projects. The project referred to designing a structure intended for relief in case of future calamities. The necessity of this kind of building came from the fire that ravaged the campus structures in the area.
Although much more subtle, the characteristic style of Hadid’s conceptual designs can be identified in the Vitra fire station. It features the dynamic and revolutionary approach that will later appear more prominently. The modern design makes use of severe materials such as raw concrete and glass that are carefully manipulated in sharp forms blending together. The clashing planes of the construction and its tilted style have obtained the approval of many other architects. However, the firemen didn’t appreciate the unconventional geometry as much and found the structure too impractical. For that reason, the Vitra fire station is now only an exhibition.
4. Riverside Museum
Built in Glasgow, Scotland, the Riverside museum is a stunning example of the architectural brilliance of Zaha Hadid. It’s the first major UK building for Hadid that houses a large 7,000 square meter exhibition space. The structure won the 2013 European museum of the year award thanks to its unusual design that embodies the revolutionary style of Hadid. The main highlight of the project is the zinc-clad roof constructed in a zigzag pattern that seems to resemble a folding wave.
The strange peaks and angles capture the attention of anyone from below but the complete form of the building isn’t properly seen unless viewed from above. The interior galleries of the museum are just as beautifully designed though not without some controversy. To match the majestic theme of the huge building, historic automobiles have been installed high on the walls which makes it too difficult to properly admire them.
5. Broad Art Museum
Zaha Hadid has designed some remarkable buildings in the US. One of the best examples is the Broad Art Museum in East Lansing, Michigan. This structure appears to defy gravity with its sharp angles and seemingly precarious leaning that certainly make it stand out over typical buildings in the area. The unique parallelogram shape is part of Hadid’s design concepts that are heavily reliant on geometry.
When thinking about her inspiration for drawing the architectural plans for this museum, Hadid affirmed that she wanted to keep the steel facades at such impossible angles to create innovative reflections with the surrounding area. The unusual angles allow the building to keep changing color depending on various environmental conditions. It’s certainly a curious sight for any visitor yet somehow manages to retain an enigmatic character that revolutionizes the streetscape.
6. London Olympics Aquatics Center
Take a look at this amazing aquatics center in London that has been masterfully designed by Hadid. The building had an important role in the 2012 Summer Olympics considering its huge swimming pools and generous seating capacity. At a first glance, the structure gives off a strong impression of fluidity because it resembles the movement of flowing water. This is especially noticeable when observing the design of the metal roof of the aquatics center. It’s shaped like a parabolic arch with a center dip seen on the inside.
The concept design of the roof was more complex to build than expected. It incurred extra costs and some delays but despite some critical comments, the aquatics center has been finished just in the time for the Olympics. While it looks stunning from the outside, the building needs to be visited on the inside to fully grasp its sensuous architectural details. The huge windows combined with the cathedral-like space of the structure make it one of the most remarkable municipal swimming pools ever built.
7. Bridge Pavilion
Constructed as both an exhibition area and a pedestrian walkway, the Bridge Pavilion is a unique structure found in Zaragoza, Spain. This is the first fully realized bridge design from Hadid. It took heavy inspiration from the waterway of the Ebro river but also from gladioli considering the suave, angular shape of the construction. The bridge is designed with concrete that’s been reinforced with fiber-glass.
Crossing this bridge on foot was an otherworldly experience for many visitors to the Zaragoza Expo in 2008 when the bridge was first used for exhibitions. The exterior of the bridge benefits from a total of 29,000 triangles that show off the creative genius of Hadid while different angles and forms mix together in harmonious elegance.
8. Heydar Aliyev Center
A famous Zaha Hadid work that puts all the trademarks of the architect on display, the Heydar Aliyev Center is one iconic result of Azerbaijan’s push towards modernizing its Soviet-era architecture. The building is found in the country’s capital, Baku. It benefits from universal recognition thanks to the breathtaking curves and minimal forms used by Hadid to create a one-of-a-kind structure.
Zaha Hadid’s firm has won the design competition for the construction of this museum. The smooth folds and flowing roof of the building have been designed by Hadid with the intention of maintaining a natural connection between the structure and the surrounding landscape. It represents a breath of fresh air when comparing Heydar Aliyev Center’s sinuous geometry to the typical rigid architecture in Azerbaijan.
9. Galaxy Soho
Some of Zaha Hadid’s projects create stronger futuristic vibes than others. It’s the case of Beijing’s Galaxy Soho whose architectural charm is provided by four domed buildings neatly linked together through platforms and bridges. The empty parts resulting from these interconnections have the interesting effect of blending traditional Chinese courtyard design with modern space-age style architecture.
The interior area of the Galaxy Soho entertainment center also features some characteristic elements of Chinese architecture because Hadid wanted to preserve key aspects of cultural identity despite the revolutionary modern touch of her design concept. It results in a functional and attractive building with the help of an architectural style that respects the universal design language.
10. Evelyn Grace Academy
With a fascinating Z-shape and imposing urban character, it’s no wonder that the Evelyn Grace Academy design managed to beat other favorites in the race for winning the Stirling Prize. This elegant and modern school built in Brixton, London had a very positive effect on Zaha Hadid’s reputation in Britain. The academy prides itself on community-focused values so it was important for the building to deliver that same welcoming atmosphere of openness.
This project was quite a daunting task for the architect because it was needed to maintain the educational ideology of separating distinct school buildings into a single structure while keeping them highly connected and functional. Evelyn Grace Academy has been designed to preserve the collective spaces while mixing together natural aggregation nodes for encouraging interaction, both internally and externally.
11. Sheikh Zayed Bridge
Zaha Hadid has contributed to many building designs in the world of architecture. She was also known for designing other types of structures such as bridges. One of the best examples is the Sheikh Zayed bridge found in Abu Dhabi, United Emirates. This isn’t just a simple bridge because it accomplishes more than a functional purpose. It has been designed with careful attention to aesthetic details considering the way it resembles a frozen scribble when seen from a large distance.
The Sheikh Zayed bridge represents an ambitious project featuring elegant curves and playful arches that can take your mind to the rippling of dunes. It’s certainly a fitting design considering the location of the bridge. The structure accommodates a total of four lanes for traffic and integrates a walkway for pedestrians. It has an important role to connect the island of the city to the Gulf south shore.
12. Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Center
Located in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Center deserves a mention on this list. This is an iconic building by Hadid because it showcases the architect’s innovative style and vision. It’s an important achievement for Zaha Hadid because it’s the first architectural project fully realized in the US. Another interesting fact is that the Rosenthal Contemporary Arts Center museum is the first in the country to be designed by a woman. In terms of style, the museum doesn’t feature the swooping curves and daring design approaches seen in the later works of Hadid.
Instead, this art museum embraces cubic shapes more prominently. When seen from the outside, the building appears to resemble a Rubik’s cube. The interior is even more impressive because Hadid attempted to use different material shapes and ceiling heights as well as distinctive lighting to recreate the effect of a jigsaw puzzle. The visual impact of the irregularly shaped galleries has been enhanced greatly across the seven floors of the museum.
13. MAXXI Museum
The National Museum of the 21st Century Arts (MAXXI) in Rome, Italy has benefited from the creative genius of Zaha Hadid. Check out the way the architect tried to maintain classic architectural elements with a modern approach to improve the style of this contemporary art museum. Building this unique structure took approximately a decade and it’s considered one of Hadid’s most ambitious projects.
The innovative design of this museum earned Hadid a Stirling Prize award from the Royal Institute of British Architects. The project made use of a former military compound which has been rejuvenated with concrete and steel elements to resemble a campus for art. Although the use of severe materials can make this structure appear a little cold and harsh, Hadid included open ceilings and glass beams to infuse the interior with welcoming light. Some signature details of the architect include the curved walls and suspended staircases.
14. Port Authority
Port Authority in Antwerp, Belgium represents the only government building that Hadid has worked on. As opposed to more formal designs that are typically used for this kind of buildings, Port Authority takes an unexpected approach. The most remarkable element of this architectural project is the large glass and steel structure perched on the building. It resembles a naval ship while the faceted glass construction takes your mind to diamonds.
The architecture of this project has been designed with careful consideration to its theme when considering that this is a port building with a symbolic connection to diamonds. The city of Antwerp is renowned for being a significant market for this precious gem. Port Authority (also known as Havenhuis) is among the last works designed by Zaha Hadid. It was completed in 2016, the year of her death. In her honor, the Belgian authorities renamed the square in the area after the architect’s name (Zaha Hadidsquare).
15. Bergisel Ski Jump
As the old ski jump no longer met the needs for hosting Winter Olympics competitions, Zaha Hadid has been tasked with designing a new structure for the ski jump at Bergisel in Austria. The construction project took the idea of a ski ramp to a new level and includes additional facilities. Perhaps the main attraction of the whole structure is the top tower where you can admire the view of the mountains from a beautiful terrace of the integrated cafe.
Zaha Hadid designed the building with sleek curves that emulate the natural sloping design of the area. Each element of the ski jump is distinctive yet still blending together harmoniously to make it a solid tourist attraction. This was a very innovative project for its time (1999-2002) considering the modern design used. It had to go through some hoops because it was met with resistance from traditionalists.
16. Dongdaemun Design Plaza
A remarkable work of neo-futurism, Dongdaemun Design Plaza is considered an important landmark in Seoul, South Korea. Similar to other projects designed by Hadid, you can immediately notice the flowing forms and other notable characteristics that give it a characteristic style of the architect. Whereas the Riverside museum in Glasgow showed off sharp angles, this structure is focused on elegant, smooth curves.
This imposing building is one of the largest in South Korea considering that it offers 86,574 square meters for exhibitions and various facilities. Aside from four levels above the ground level, Dongdaemun Design Plaza also features three underground levels. The interior of the structure makes use of lots of durable materials for reinforcement such as polished stone and stainless steel. It’s a building designed with eco-friendliness in mind when taking into account the solar panels and water recycling system.
17. Ordrupgaard Museum Extension
The extension made for the Ordrupgaard museum in Copenhagen, Denmark could be considered an excellent example of Zaha Hadid’s vision. She designed a new building for expanding this museum while paying close attention to the surrounding landscape. The use of diagonals has resulted in a unique shape of the structure. The design allows the large glass walls to reflect the garden and establish a stronger connection to nature.
The undulations of the landscape are also elegantly emulated by the curved forms of this museum design. Hadid managed to create an ideal atmosphere for presenting the exhibits. The building is made from black lava concrete and offers a connection to the old museum through a passage where visitors can admire a very large collection of Danish and French art.
18. Capital Hill Residence
Known as the only private residential work of Zaha Hadid, this neo-futuristic construction is located in a hillside area close to Moscow, Russia. Capital Hill Residence shows off a very eye-catching futuristic design with four floors. The villa has a very unusual and luxurious appearance with half of the structure being submerged into the ground. It’s estimated to have cost around $140 million, which makes the building one of the most expensive residences on the planet.
The flamboyant style of this architectural project makes it stand out compared to the surrounding forest. It’s safe to say that you can easily spot Hadid’s striking signature style in the design of each element of the building. Similar to her urban creations, this residential building shows the amazing level of inventiveness of the architect considering the sculpture-like design that resembles a spaceship.
19. 520 West 28th Street
Commonly referred to as the Zaha Hadid Building, this architectural project was among the last ones before her death. Located in New York, this building offers luxury apartments that provide a spectacular view of the surroundings. This is thanks to being situated along the High Line, the elevated linear park built on a former railroad. The Zaha Hadid Building’s sinuous curves and futuristic geometries are easier to admire with the help of the structure’s L-shape.
On the ground level, 520 West 28th Street boasts a selection of four art galleries. A detail that stands out is the duplex penthouse that’s recessed. The building relies on laser-cut stainless-steel trim that gives off a very futuristic vibe. Inside the building, you can expect a selection of luxurious amenities, from the lobby to individual apartment units. Zaha Hadid also made important contributions by designing the kitchens.
Home to three government departments, Pierresvives in Montpellier, France showcases the instantly-recognizable Zaha Hadid design features. This impressive building blends concrete and glass materials together with characteristic geometric qualities that give the entire structure a sense of serious solidity. It’s interesting to see the way Hadid created a unified design for the three departments of the building.
Whereas the durable concrete look seems fitting and reassuring for the archives and libraries, the flexible design makes use of lunging forms that work more effectively to illustrate the sports department. The result is a marvelous display that contributes to the modern architectural revival of Montpellier. An excellent building for housing and uniting three distinctive agencies under a single roof.
21. BMW Administration Building
Despite a large selection of competing architecture firms, BMW selected the design proposal from Zaha Hadid for a new administrative building in Leipzig, Germany. This impressive structure makes use of overlapping and interconnecting levels to unite different parts of the building. BMW required a focal point of administration for the company’s factory and Hadid designed it in a similar style to the Phaeno Science Center by integrating leaning concrete pylons.
One of the features that makes this a notable work of Hadid is the sense of openness created by the interior design of the building. The roof forms an H shape while different working groups in the area can interact more dynamically through a series of cascading levels and floors. It’s also drawing inspiration from the company’s global transparent organizational approach to make a spectacular complex.
22. Hungerburgbahn Stations
Hungerburgbahn’s funicular railway system located in Austria benefited from new station designs created by the architect Zaha Hadid. She took inspiration from natural ice formations whose organic shapes and curves have been elegantly emulated in the project. As with other works from Hadid, you can immediately notice the dedication to respecting the beauty of natural surroundings.
The Hungerburgbahn stations seem to match the mountains of the Innsbruck region very well. Despite the durable materials used, the buildings create a delicate impression thanks to the design of the lightweight roof that appears to be floating on the structure. All the artificial details of the stations replicate the movement and circulation of the hybrid railway system to contribute to the excellent potential of Hungerburgbahn to attract tourists.
23. Jockey Club Innovation Tower
This is a stylish 15-story building that houses around 1,800 students and staff of the Polytechnic University of Hong Kong. It embodies the fluid curves and natural erosion shapes that are characteristic of Zaha Hadid’s architectural style. The Jockey Club Innovation Tower is the first permanent work in the country from Hadid. There was a design building competition in 2007 for this tower.
The challenge was to build a symbolic structure that represented the drive of the country to stand out in the world of Asiatic design. Zaha Hadid and her architectural team won the competition by integrating fluid volumes in the building that achieved the desired level of interconnectedness for a structure of this kind. Instead of classic multi-story building topography, the novel approach relies on a seamless modern construction design that enables visitors to understand the layout and organization in a natural way.
24. Serpentine Sackler Gallery
Although most of the architectural projects of Zaha Hadid feature heavy modern elements, there are some works of her that manage to integrate more traditional aspects. The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London, UK can be considered a significant example in this regard. This is a renovation project that aimed to modernize a classical brick structure. It presents Hadid’s signature curves and shapes that have been put on display more elegantly with the help of skylights and retractable blinds.
This was a more distinctive type of architectural project that required a reconstruction while respecting the history of the building. It posed some additional challenges for Hadid. She entered a collaboration with a heritage specialist to ensure a proper transformation of the building. The result was a beautiful synthesis of old and new elements while showcasing multiple galleries and a vibrant social zone in a distinguished building.
25. Library and Learning Center
An important highlight of Vienna’s University of Economics, this is another superb architectural work designed by Zaha Hadid. The Library and Learning Center is situated at the heart of the campus and shows off an intriguing geometrical shape. This distinctive building provides a huge interior area with some of Hadid’s iconic features. A great example is the sloping design of the walls that tend to become curvilinear as you move inward.
The interior of the Library and Learning Center seems to resemble the look of a canyon considering the wild transitions from one level to another in a free-formed environment. There are multiple corridors and bridges that contribute to that impression. It’s a fascinating spectacle for any visitor as they experience the fluid architecture of Hadid.
26. Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre
While it may look like Zaha Hadid’s style wouldn’t be ideally suited for a skyscraper project, it looks like the architect managed to pull off an incredible design with the International Youth Cultural Centre located in Nanjing, China. There are two huge towers built for this project designed to enhance the urban environment area close to the Yangtze river.
The two skyscrapers house many office floors as well as separate hotels while the podium offers a huge space for the Cultural Center. Different elements of the center have been skillfully merged at higher levels while retaining an open landscape at ground level. The fluid architecture of the cultural center creates an elegant fusion between the river and the urban streetscape of the city.
27. Salerno Maritime Terminal
With an oyster-like design, the Salerno Maritime Terminal is Zaha Hadid’s first important transportation building. It has been inaugurated shortly after her death in 2016. The structure is located in Salerno, Italy and covers a large area of 50,000 square feet. Although the project was started in 2000, there have been multiple delays that caused it to be completed much later than expected.
As the unusual shape of the building suggests, the maritime terminal was designed to symbolize the historic relationship of the city with the sea. The asymmetric roof that emulates a hard shell appears to offer protection for the softer interior features of the structure. Each internal component of the terminal has been seamlessly combined so the building can accomplish its purpose and deal with border control, shipping, and other administrative tasks.
28. Daxing International Airport
Zaha Hadid worked on some projects that were finished later after her death. The Daxing International Airport in Beijing represents a good example. Resembling a starfish, the curved roof covers a huge terminal that’s theorized to be able to reach a capacity of more than 70 million passengers annually. There were lots of challenging aspects when it comes to designing the structure of this airport.
The idea behind the construction was to streamline passenger flow while ensuring a smooth balance in terms of aesthetics. It’s also important for a terminal of this size to allow passengers to walk comfortably over shorter distances to reach their destinations. A lot of simplification work went into organizing the floors for more efficient travel. Despite the technical difficulties and functional requirements, the signature curves of Hadid still make an appearance to mesmerize airport travelers.
29. One Thousand Museum
Featured in PBS’s Impossible Builds series, the One Thousand Museum designed by Hadid stands out compared to typical skyscrapers. This building was completed after the architect’s passing and features some incredibly complex design aspects. The main highlight is the use of a special curving exoskeleton that provides reinforcement for the structure while enabling the interior area to appear larger thanks to requiring fewer columns.
Zaha Hadid’s architectural touch is present in each smooth detail up to the most important finishes. Because of its unique design and look, the skyscraper’s foundation had to be much deeper compared to typical plans. The condominium tower is located in Miami, US where it offers a selection of luxurious amenities. It stands very tall compared to other buildings in the city while showing off its exotic design elements.
30. Corones Messner Mountain Museum
Part of a network of museums dedicated to mountaineering in Italy, the Corones museum is the sixth and final building of the project. It was designed by Zaha Hadid using durable materials and sharp angles that make it blend well in the mountainous location where the structure can be found. Corones was built at an altitude of 2,275 meters on top of a mountain.
The museum has a modern and futuristic design. Visitors can admire a permanent exhibition where they can discover fascinating aspects about the history of climbing and mountaineering. The project has been inaugurated in 2015, one year before the death of Zaha Hadid.