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Zaha Hadid's style and design philosophy

Many of us recognise famous buildings and eye-catching architecture when we pass it, but would you know the creator responsible for these designs? Often they remain little known. Here we explore the history and style of one of the great minds behind luxury architecture – Zaha Hadid.

Sintra - Zaha Hadid's style: what is it about this architect's design language that is so polarising?

Zaha Hadid's early biography

Anyone who has passed the London Olympic Aquatic Centre would recognise the stamp of Zaha Hadid’s style. The Iraqi-born British architect is known for being a rare woman on a male-dominated podium. Her accolades included a Royal Gold Medal for architecture – the first one to be awarded to a woman in its 167-year history – and two Stirling Prizes, to name just a couple.

Zaha Hadid’s style was born early in her career, as she planned a famous design for The Peak, in Hong Kong. It was to be a deconstructed, horizontal skyscraper, turning heads in the architecture world. Unfortunately the concept – and most of her radical '80s and early '90s designs – including the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin and the Düsseldorf Art and Media Centre, were never brought to life. They were considered too avant-garde to be taken beyond sketches, and she started to gain a reputation as a "paper architect".

Zaha Hadid’s later work

Her public buildings are often described as dynamic, as if they're a freeze-frame of an action shot. Zaha Hadid's style embraces striking lines, sometimes bold with expressive curves; other times brutalist in essence. Her first commissioned work was the Vitra Fire Station in 1994, followed shortly by the geometric shape of the Contemporary Arts Centre in Cincinnati and the alien-esque concrete structure of the Phaeno Science Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany. More recent productions include the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, which won her the 2011 Stirling Prize, and the vividly expressive Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Her firm, established in 2006, has a wide portfolio beyond the walls of architecture including accessories, jewellery, interiors, exhibition and set design. She’s also created limited-edition furniture fit for a truly luxury lifestyle, like the well-loved Le-a Table, born of a collaboration between Zaha Hadid Design and Leblon Delienne. The sculptural fibreglass coffee table was inspired by Princess Leia's iconic hairstyle in the Star Wars film franchise.

Zaha Hadid’s design philosophy

Hadid stated that her architectural designs were not intended as a personal stamp on the world, or an act of self-indulgence. Rather, addressing 21st-century challenges and opportunities is the cornerstone to Zaha Hadid’s style and creations.

Architecture, she claimed, "must contribute to society's progress and ultimately to our individual and collective wellbeing." The buildings born of her vision and the collective genius of her firm Zaha Hadid Architects, may sometimes seem fantastical, triumphant and even a bit loud, but they all stem from architecture’s base function – to facilitate and even perform everyday life.

This successful architect is a polarising figure, with outspoken suggestions to pedestrianise vast swathes of London, a plan which aims to alleviate problems such as pollution and road safety. Plans by Zaha Hadid Architects for two soaring towers in Vauxhall have also had their fair share of opposition, as well as support.

Whether it's for her more controversial designs, her unrealised dreams or her masterpieces which have come to fruition, Zaha Hadid’s style is rightly globally recognised, and she has obtained legendary status since her death in March 2016.

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