Zaha Hadid, 10 Years Later

by Noam Dvir
What’s on the desk of Zaha Hadid these days?
Towers in Bratislava, Miami, Singapore and China; cultural and recreational buildings like the Design Park and Plaza in Dongdaemun and a new Dance and Music Center in the Hague; and a new flagship project in her home country, the headquarters of the Iraqi national bank.
With a staggeringly large team of about 400 architects, Hadid’s London office is one of the busiest in the world. Although only fragments of her initial work were realized, she experienced an incredible global interest the past decade both from public and private clients. Her new projects display extreme formal complexity and a renewed interest in ornamentation. They could be perceived as a continuous evolution of a digital baroque. 
Hadid was a guest speaker in the Harvard Graduate School of Design on Wednesday night. She was invited by Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, a former classmate at the AA and a close friend ever since. “The incredible thing is that Zaha cares and supports people,” said Mostafavi—wearing a suit that she admittedly made him buy. “It’s important for architects of her stature to be this way.” 
The lecture entitled “10 years later” covered recent projects by Zaha Hadid Architects—both realized and unrealized. Hadid shared with students advanced drawings of one of the key projects in her office, including the new national stadium of Japan. Some of the buildings resemble “flowers” or “feathers,” others have “tails,” as Hadid put it. 
Hadid taught at Harvard in the mid 1980s. She recalled that she was an unusual character around school and some professors accused her of being a bad influence on the students. “I was severely attacked by one of your faculty because I smoked. They told me not to smoke anywhere in the building, so I smoked everywhere. I also wore funnier clothes.” Hadid added: “They were not mad about my smoking but rather about my influence.”
She keeps in touch with many of her students from the GSD but admits that others “might still have nightmares because of me.” “I remember my first years at the AA in London,” she said. “The first were terrible and the last were great. I was so mad at my teachers because of how they treated me. Perhaps this is what made me more focused in my work.” 
Noam Dvir (MAUD ’14) is a journalist and critic covering the architecture world for the past decade. He contributes regularly to Haaretz newspaper in Tel Aviv and various design magazines including Frame and PIN-UP