Architecture is an area where women are woefully underrepresented. Chances are, any big name architect you can think of off-hand, Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson etc, are all men.
Zaha Hadid definitely bucks that trend. Born in Iraq, she studied architecture in London. One of her teachers was the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, another big name in architecture. Hadid worked for Koolhaas after graduating from architecture school.
Hadid started her own studio in the 80’s and quickly became known, as the New York Times put it,”…for the powerful, curving forms of her elongated structures.”
For a while she was famous for her designs of unbuilt projects, like the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Cardiff Bay, Wales.
Her first building in the United States, the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati was considered a major success and she went on to design the BMW Central Building in Leipzig, Germany; Guangzhou Opera House in Guangzhou, China; London Acquatics Center in London, England, and Maxxi, the National Center for Contemporary Arts in Rome, Italy, among many others.
In 2005 she became the first woman ever to be awarded the Pritzker Prize, the Nobel Prize equivalent in world of architecture. In 2006 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York presented her first major retrospective in the United States, “Zaha Hadid: Thirty Years in Architecture”, considered a rare honor for any living architect.
Guangzhou Opera House exterior. Photo: Iwan Baan. Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects.