Renowned Architect Zaha Hadid Dies At 65 | WBEZ
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Renowned Architect Zaha Hadid Dies At 65

Zaha Hadid, the Pritzker-winning architect whose designs — both realized and unrealized — profoundly influenced the world of architecture, has died in Miami after contracting bronchitis and experiencing a sudden heart attack, according to her architecture firm.

She was 65.

Hadid, an Iraqi-born Briton, spent decades famous for striking, dramatic and experimental designs — often dismissed as impractical or impossible to build.

Her first major design, in the early 1980s, was for the Peak Leisure Club in Hong Kong. She envisioned a gravity-defying, jagged-edged structure perched on top of a mountain. It won a competition for the building's design but was never built.

A decade later, Hadid envisioned an angular auditorium for the Cardiff Bay Opera House. That, too, won the design competition for the project but was never built.

In fact, despite numerous high-profile designs, only two of Hadid's building designs were realized before 2000: an eight-story housing project in Berlin and the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany.

In the past fifteen years, though, Hadid found traction as a designer of physical buildings — not just an experimental thinker.

She designed, among other things, the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati; the Bergisel Ski Jump on Bergisel Mountain in Innsbruck, Austria; and the London Olympic Aquatics Center for the London Olympics.

Her design for the 2022 World Cup stadium in Qatar is currently being built — amid controversy over the working conditions, as multiple laborers have died working on the stadium project. Hadid's comment on the issue of laborer welfare in Qatari projects — which included, "It's not my duty as an architect to look at it" — were widely criticized. Hadid sued one critic for defamation.

While Hadid's work in recent years has moved from concept to construction far more frequently than it used to, some high-profile designs have still been scrapped. An Olympic stadium for Tokyo was designed, then ditched, after the cost ballooned to $2 billion and members of the public mocked the building's appearance.

Hadid won the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 — the first woman to do so.

At the time, she told Edward Lifson of Chicago Public Radio that she had wanted to be an architect for her entire life — since she was 11 or 12.

"I think that people want to feel good in a space," Zaha also said then. "Architecture on the one hand is about shelter, but it's also about pleasure, and I think ... the more you carve out of city civic spaces and the more it is accessible to a much larger mass and public, then it is about them enjoying that space. That makes, you know, life much better."

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