Thursday, March 31, 2016

Death of a Starchitect - Dame Zaha Hadid


I just learned of Zaha Hadid's death about ten minutes ago.

What impact she had on the architectural world is immeasurable, though I'm certain in the days to come there will be many out in force attempting to do so. I confess, her architectural designs interest me less than her approach to life and practice. I admire her audacity, her unapologetic and uncensored personality - the Queen Bitch that some loudly deride but many secretly (or not-so-secretly) want to be. And to be a woman and an Arab woman at that in this profession - such incredible will.

An obituary (like the article linked above) is by its nature somewhat bland and matter-of-fact. I rather think this profile from a few years ago is more appropriate to someone so much larger-than-life as Hadid:


I don't usually think of famous architects in terms of their Disney princess equivalents, but Zaha Hadid has always been equated with Ursula the Sea Witch in my mind, and not just from more-than-passing resemblance. Although that helps.

The similarities are more than just skin-deep. Powerful woman in her field? Check. Unapologetic ambition? Check. Iconcoclast? Check. Occasionally (and hilariously) vulgar? Check. Refuses to take shit from the "Establishment?" Check. Sets her own status quo? Check, Wouldn't want to get on her bad side? Double Check. The very qualities that make Ursula such a wonderful antagonist are the qualities that created such a cult of personality around Zaha Hadid. There's also (a slight stretch of an) argument to be made that Ursula is a woman of color in a very white-centric world, at least within the Disney canon. (In fact Ursula appears in the live-action TV show Once Upon a Time played by Merrin Dungey).

I am sorry that Hadid's life was cut so short, especially at the peak of her built career with her buildings taking shape all over the world. I'm even more sorry that such an incredible Architect-With-A-Capital-A is no longer in the world to lead and inspire future designers. And I hope there are more like her coming: more women, more people of color, more designers who don't fit the mold and don't give a good goddamn.

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