Zaha Hadid deserves recognition of her achievements

The architect’s striking Innovation Tower at Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University fits the vision of our city as a hub for new ideas

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 April, 2016, 11:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 April, 2016, 11:40pm

Zaha Hadid may not be a familiar name to many people. But the sudden death of the Iraqi-British architect has shocked the architectural world and beyond. The 65-year-old was suffering from bronchitis and died in a Miami hospital of a heart attack on Thursday.

Widely regarded as the world’s leading female architect, Hadid is a success story of a woman making inroads into a predominantly men’s industry. She is the first female recipient of the top Pritzker Architecture Prize – known as the Nobel Prize for architects. Hundreds of her buildings can be found across 44 countries, including the London Aquatics Centre, the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Azerbaijan, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul and the Guangzhou Opera House.

Hong Kong is privileged to have her imprint, too. Tucked away in a corner in Hung Hom, the Jockey Club Innovation Tower for Polytechnic University School of Design is built with the shape of a slanting structure in layers. The unconventional concept befits the vision of driving the city to become an innovation and design hub. The Iraqi-born architect shot to fame with her daring ideas. Her signature curve-shaped and geometric designs are as much a tribute to physical beauty as a challenge to the conventional. But her successful career is not just crafted out of victories and awards. For instance, she made her name by winning in The Peak gallery design competition in Hong Kong in 1983; but her “deconstructivist” concept, which involved excavating the hills to build artificial cliffs to hold the structure, was said to be “defiant of gravity” and was therefore never lifted from the drawing board.

The language of art is such that what pleases one person’s eyes may not appeal to others. Hadid faced her fair share of criticism, some of which may seem unjustified. Her approach was sometimes criticised as extravagant; and her works in certain countries were branded as glorifying autocratic regimes.

But whether you like her style or not, she has a well deserved place in the history of contemporary architecture.