There was a time in the not-so-distant past when architecture was considered a man's world. Men got all the big commissions, men won the prestigious awards. This was, of course, before Zaha Hadid came along. A groundbreaking architect with a vision, she changed the face not only of architecture, but of some of the greatest skylines on the planet. Her signature curved lines and neofuturistic designs were in a class all their own, as was the woman herself. The world lost one of the greatest architects of this generation on Thursday when Zahar Hadid died at the age of 65. But how did Zaha Hadid die?
According to a report from The New York Times, Zaha Hadid “contracted bronchitis earlier this week and suffered a sudden heart attack while being treated in hospital." When news hit on Thursday morning of her death, fellow architect and close friend Frank Gehry spoke with Time about the Zaha Hadid he remembered.
“She was undaunted by all the stuff that would be against a woman coming into a field at that level," he said. "She didn’t pay attention to it … She was very confident.” He added that Hadid managed to create a "language that's unique to her. I suppose it will be copied, but never the way she did it."
By all accounts, the Iraqi-British Hadid was revolutionary in her field. She studied maths at the American University of Beirut before turning her attentions to architecture. In 1979 she started her own company, Zaha Hadid Architects, which has completed 950 projects in 44 countries to date.
In 2004 she became the first woman to win architecture's version of the Nobel Prize, the Pritzker Prize, and then the first woman to win the RIBA Gold Medal, Britain's top prize for architecture, in 2015. She has designed some of the most impressive, awe-inspiring, unabashedly unique buildings in the world.
When Hadid died on Thursday in a Miami hospital at the age of 65, it was a loss felt beyond the world of architecture. It was a loss to anyone who appreciated vision, and beauty, and courage. Hadid took the angles of life and smoothed them into curves, bent steel to her will and was so far ahead of her time that it took years for the science of building to catch up to her designs.
Truly, it was because Hadid was a woman who had dared to enter a man’s world, and took no shit from anybody, though plenty was offered. She had to be twice as smart and three times as tough as her male counterparts in order to get anything built. And even then she struggled for years to realize her projects, and was forced to endure cruel and humiliating referendums on such thwarted projects as the Cardiff Bay Opera House, or the ongoing Olympic-stadium debacle in Tokyo, in which the government blocked Hadid’s competition-winning design from going forward after protests from prominent Japanese architects.
Hadid's talent, her ferocity, her vision, and certainly her courage will be greatly missed.