Behind the Design:
A Tribute to Zaha Hadid
Called the “queen of the curve,” architect and designer Zaha Hadid left a mark on the design world with a signature, cutting-edge aesthetic that has transformed spaces all over the globe. Here, we revisit some of her extraordinary work.
Written by Nissa Hallquist
Last year, I took a trip to Scotland. With all of the things there were to see, taste and experience, there is one thing that really stands out for me. Make that one building: A tall, sprawling, jagged creation with huge windows in Glasgow. I did not get the chance to go inside, but I was so impressed by the exterior that I had to find out what it was and who made it. It was the Glasgow Riverside Museum of Transport, designed by one Zaha Hadid.
It is just one out of many extraordinary buildings she designed all around the world. When she passed away—quite unexpectedly of a heart attack—on March 31, 2016, Hadid left behind an exceptional legacy of architectural and product design. Considering her relatively young age and prolific-yet-mature design skills, she also leaves her admirers with the wistful thought of what could have been.
Hadid was born in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 31, 1950. After studying mathematics at the American University of Beirut, she moved to London in 1972 to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. It was also in London that she founded her own architectural firm in 1980. After that, history shows that there was no stopping her.
To say that Hadid looms large over the architectural world is something of an understatement. In 2004, she was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize for her body of work to that point. She was the first woman, and first Iraqi, to be recognized. Many more prestigious honors were to follow, including the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Award (twice, in 2010 and 2011) and being named by Queen Elizabeth II as a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to architecture in 2012.
Such admirations were primarily due to Hadid's distinctive style and approach to design. Her educational foundation in mathematics inspired her to experiment with geometry and scale. The resulting designs ranged from sharp and fragmented to sweeping and fluid; all of them are impressively scaled. You would be so entranced with Hadid’s buildings that you might not notice right away how seamlessly they fit in and enhance their surroundings, whether in the heart of a chaotic urban center or hovering tranquilly over natural settings.
In her spare time, Hadid put her distinctive touch on product design. While certainly much smaller, Hadid's furniture, chandeliers, home and fashion accessories and even stage sets show off that same sweeping, parabolic style that mark her architectural ones.
While Hadid may have left us too soon, at least we have these designs to remember her by and, hopefully, inspire others to continue changing the world for the better with their designs.
The real benefit of Hadid’s product design is that, even though you cannot take one of her buildings home, you can still admire authentic Hadid design everyday through her designs for brands like Alessi and Slamp.