The Complete Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid is among the most famous working architects today, a distinction well deserved given her largely impressive track record.

Above: The Vitra Fire Station (1994), Hadid’s first major built commission, remains one of her finest efforts.

The Complete Zaha Hadid

The evolution from Zaha, young artist and daring architect, to Dame Zaha, globetrotting celebrity designer, is told in the expanded and updated The Complete Zaha Hadid.

Above: The Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati (2003) catapulted the architect in the rarefied realm of starchitects and helped her earn the Pritzker Prize the following year.

The Complete Zaha Hadid

The monograph is filled with hundreds of photos of building projects, plans, and paintings.

Above: MAXXI-National Museum of the 21st Century Arts (2009) in Rome, which garnered the 2010 Stirling Prize, draws heavily on Hadid’s dynamic canvases. It also marks a critical juncture between her pre- and post-parametric work.

The Complete Zaha Hadid

The Phaeno Science Center (2005) in Wolfsburg, Germany, makes expressive use of concrete and couples it with a striking, non-frilly form.

The Complete Zaha Hadid

The Evelyn Grace Academy (2010) in London secured a second Stirling Prize for Hadid.

The Complete Zaha Hadid

The Olympic Aquatic Center housed all of the swimming events in London’s 2012 Games. It’s the most graceful white elephant you’ll ever see.

The Complete Zaha Hadid

The just-opened Heydar Aliyev Centre in Azerbaijan will give any visitor pause: The building literally emerges from the landscape. It’s striking and also indicative of the priority of form that drives most of Hadid’s recent work.

The Complete Zaha Hadid

See all of these buildings and more in The Complete Zaha Hadid.


The A-To-Zaha List: 7 Of Hadid's Best Buildings

To complement a new monograph of the architect’s work, see seven essential projects—where we’re most pleased she swooped in.

Zaha Hadid is among the most famous architects working today. A designer of buildings and objects, a celebrity and a diva, architect and artist, Hadid is a polarizing figure, to say nothing of her rarefied position as a woman among many, many men.

Cinematographer is a new title the expanded and updated volume The Complete Zaha Hadid bestows on Hadid. In his introduction to the book, architecture critic Aaron Betsky writes: "She sees like a camera. She perceives the city in slow motion, in pans, swoops and close-ups, in jump-cuts and narrative rhythms." Then more dramatically, perhaps making her a cinematographer who relies heavily on the special effects department, "She builds the explosion of a tenth of a second."

Not many would confuse the work of Zaha Hadid with whatever the Hollywood auteurs choose to blow up. But Betsky is right in drawing the comparison. Flip through the hundreds of buildings, plans, and paintings in the monograph, and you quickly get an idea for the architect’s blockbuster-like touch.

From her earliest projects (including speculative urban, topography-warping structures) to her latest works vividly realized (see the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Azerbaijan), Hadid has always been obsessed with speed. Buildings zoom by with great velocity, their facade markings suggesting lines of movement. Her structures are frequently angular and sometimes poised on legs that appear topsy-turvy. They’re also serpentine, slippery things that skillfully navigate small tracts of city as they wend this way and that.

Of course, a lot of it has to do with photography, and there’s plenty of stimulating imagery in the book, published by Thames & Hudson. Hadid, along with her frequent partner Patrik Schumacher and, by extension, Zaha Hadid Architects, seems to craft her buildings with these cinematic moments in mind. She wants them to move, but because they can’t, she frames them in dynamic poses, suggesting a velocity that isn’t often associated with architecture.

The effect is undeniably appealing, even if the more recent, parametrically charged efforts achieve the sensation all too easily, giving more the impression of showing off than picking up speed. Her earlier, more brooding buildings, like the Vitra Fire Station (1994) and Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati (2003), reinterpret Constructivist and Suprematist forms with great success. The Phaeno Science Center (2005) in Wolfsburg, Germany, makes excellent use of concrete; it looks beamed in from another planet, where a martian kind of Brutalism reigns supreme.

Of the architect’s latest structures, the most satisfying are the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, which was awarded the Stirling Prize in 2011, and Beijing’s Galaxy Soho, the building most famous for spawning a Chinese copy and an intense, if short-lived, debate on counterfeiting architecture.

Head on up to the slide show for our essential Zaha Hadid projects. Buy The Complete Zaha Hadid here for $28.

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  • Lewis St. Paul

    I really wouldn't call the olympic aquatics centre a white elephant. That centre in Azerbaijan on the other hand...

  • ToddHuge

    Inspiring work.  Do I detect a bit of an I.M. Pei influence?  Thanks for the inside look.