The Composer of Curves

Zaha Hadid may be no more, but her legacy lives on

Zaha Hadid by Brigitte Lacombe

The skills of Architect Zaha Hadid (1950­2016) are well beyond words. She was a virtuoso, an architecture maestro, composer of the curves and much more. Her lyrical ingenuity was not restricted to a piece of paper, but found a visual expression in the field of architecture. The fluid movements and the symphony of the curves spoke her interpretation of architecture. She not only brought her designs to life but also gave them an identity that surpasses the title and ownership of the buildings and the people, and sometimes artefacts, it inhabits.

She has designed everything from grand museums, handbag­inspired mobile pavilion to complex furniture, 3D printed heels, door handles et al. Her unconventionality won her many admirers from around the world.

‘Space’ was a dull and void word that never escaped from her vocabulary; she instead preferred words like ‘energy’, ‘field’ and ‘ground conditions’ as stated in a long read by John Seabrook published in New Yorker (2009). Seabrook went on to describe, “In her buildings, walls are never quite vertical, floors seldom remain flat for long, and the twain meet not in ninety­degree angles but, rather, in the kinds of curves one finds in skateboard parks.”

Her journey from Baghdad to London and from being a dare­dreamer to one of the most cherished architects of her time was no fairy tale. Breaking stereotypes, barriers, stirring controversies and silencing her critics would be what Zaha will be best remembered for.

Her peers and colleagues admired her sheer grit. As Lord Norman Foster wrote in his tribute: “I think it was Zaha’s triumph to go beyond the beautiful graphic visions of her sculptural approach to architecture into reality that so upset some of her critics. She was an individual of great courage, conviction and tenacity. It is rare to find these qualities tied to a free creative spirit. That is why her loss is so profound and her example so inspirational. And, besides, she was my dear friend.”

In 2004, she won the Pritzker Prize, the first woman architect to ever do so and has twice won the RIBA Stirling Prize. She was a Dame Commander of the British Empire and a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France. She was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and an honorary fellow of Columbia University and has honorary degrees to her name from Yale and The Pratt Institute. She has also been named one of 100 most influential people in Time magazine.


ZHA has proposed a 94,000 sq m complex at BEKO that will replace the existing unused and inaccessible site. The design introduces a habitable landscape with an undulating topography drawing an influence of the magnificent Kalemegdan Castle in Serbia. The campus will be developed to accommodate a five-star hotel, art galleries, a conference centre, a department store and shops, as well as residential accommodation and offices, just 500 m from the city centre.


Photo Courtesy: Zaha Hadid Architects


This could be Hadid’s most stunning industrial project. The Central Building is the active nerve-centre or brain of the whole BMW factory complex. All threads of the building’s activities gather together and branch out again from here. Designed as a series of overlapping and interconnecting levels and spaces, it blurs the separation between parts of the complex and creates a level ground for both blue and white collar employees, visitors, and the cars.


Photography by Helene Binet


Considered as her first major public commission to open in the UK, this beautiful museum is built on the banks of river Clyde in Scotland. It houses over 3,000 exhibits showcasing the history of transportation, engineering and shipbuilding legacy. The 36 m high glazed façade and zinc clad roof creates a cross-sectional outline that encapsulates a wave or a ‘pleated’ movement. The outer pleats are enclosed to accommodate the support services and black box exhibits leaving the main central space to be column-free and open.

Riverside Museum 004

Photography by Hufton + Crow


Built on the banks of the river Pearl, the opera house is designed as two large pebble shaped structures washed ashore. The glass fibre reinforced gypsum creates a fluid mould in an asymmetric structure where the dome and the curtain wall merge seamlessly. The irregular structural joint has a complex non-geometric design. The building houses a 1,800-seat theatre plus 400-seat multifunctional hall, rehearsal rooms and entrance hall.

ZHA_Guangzhou Opera House_Hufton+Crow

Photography by Hufton + Crow


This project resembles a boat made of steel and glass. With its heavy volume and sharp edges with strong horizontal lines clearly pronounced, the building seems to levitate on the ground. Volumetrically, the structure is composed of two architectural elements, a large body of developing horizontal suspended 8 meters from the ground and their support, 10 cones of concrete that not only sustain but continue to face upward to meet the roof.

phaeno science centre

Photography by Werner Huthmacher


Zaha Hadid won a competition to design the 57,000-sq m building that reflects the Azeri Architecture in 2007.  In her signature undulating design, the shell is composed of a steel space frame and glass-fibre-reinforced concrete panels, concealing the vertical supports within the walls. The cultural centre houses the exhibition spaces, library, a museum and concert venue.

HAC_photo by Helene Binet_02

Photography by Helene Binet


This museum, housing two institutions MAXXI Arte and MAXXI Architecture, is a first-of-its-kind contemporary art museum in Italy. Designed as the multi-disciplinary and multi-purpose campus of the arts and culture, ZHA defined two architectural elements in this project, the concrete walls that define the exhibition galleries and the transparent roof that modulates natural light.


Photography by Helene Binet


This was part of a larger refurbishment project for the Olympic Arena and replaced the old ski jump, which no longer met with international standards. The building is a hybrid of highly specialised sports facilities and public spaces, including a café and a viewing terrace.  At a length of about 90 m and a height of almost 50 m, the building is a combination of a tower and a bridge. Structurally it is divided into the vertical concrete tower and a spatial steel structure, which integrates the ramp and the café.

Skiijump 987_HB_06

Photography by Helene Binet

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