Home / Lead News / ‘Queen of the curve’ Zaha Hadid dies aged 65 from heart attack

‘Queen of the curve’ Zaha Hadid dies aged 65 from heart attack

29Dame Zaha Hadid, the world-renowned architect, whose designs include the London Olympic

aquatic centre, has died aged 65. The British designer, who was born in Iraq, had a heart attack on

Thursday while in hospital in Miami, where she was being treated for bronchitis.

Hadid’s buildings have been commissioned around the world and she was the first woman to receive

the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) gold medal.

A lengthy statement released by her company said: “It is with great sadness that Zaha Hadid

Architects have confirmed that Dame Zaha Hadid DBE died suddenly in Miami in the early hours of

this morning.

“She had contracted bronchitis earlier this week and suffered a sudden heart attack while being

treated in hospital. Zaha Hadid was widely regarded to be the greatest female architect in the world


30Speaking from Mexico, Richard Rogers, whose buildings include the Pompidou Centre and the

Millennium Dome, told the Guardian that the news of Hadid’s death was “really, really terrible”.

“She was a great architect, a wonderful woman and wonderful person,” Lord Rogers said. “Among

architects emerging in the last few decades, no one had any more impact than she did. She fought

her way through as a woman. She was the first woman to win the Pritzker prize.

“I got involved with her first in Cardiff when the government threw her off the project in the most

disgraceful way. She has had to fight every inch of the way. It is a great loss.”

Jane Duncan, RIBA’s president, said: “Dame Zaha Hadid was an inspirational woman, and the kind of

architect one can only dream of being. Visionary and highly experimental, her legacy, despite her

young age, is formidable.

“She leaves behind a body of work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, that delight and

astound people all around the world. The world of architecture has lost a star today.”

The architect Daniel Libeskind said he was devastated by her death. “Her spirit will live on in her

work and studio. Our hearts go out,” he said.

Stirling prize winner Amanda Levete said: “She was an inspiration. Her global impact was profound

and her legacy will be felt for many years to come because she shifted the culture of architecture

and the way that we experience buildings. When my son was very young, Zaha showed him how to

write his name in Arabic. It was the moment I realised the genesis of her remarkable architectural


“She was an extraordinary role model for women. She was fearless and a trailblazer – her work was

brave and radical. Despite sometimes feeling misunderstood, she was widely celebrated and rightly


Architect Graham Morrison said: “She was so distinct that there isn’t anybody like her. She didn’t fit

in and I don’t mean that meanly. She was in a world of her own and she was extraordinary.”

The British culture minister, Ed Vaizey, posted on Twitter, saying he was stunned at the news and

praising her “huge contribution to contemporary architecture”.

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, tweeted: “So sad to hear of death of Zaha Hadid, she was an

inspiration and her legacy lives on in wonderful buildings in Stratford and around the world.”

Hadid, born in Baghdad in 1950, became a revolutionary force in British architecture even though

she struggled to win commissions in the UK for many years. The Iraqi government described her

death as “an irreplaceable loss to Iraq and the global community”.

She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before launching her architectural

career in London at the Architectural Association.

By 1979, she had established her own practice in London – Zaha Hadid Architects – and gained a

reputation across the world for groundbreaking theoretical works including the Peak in Hong Kong

(1983), Kurfürstendamm 70 in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay opera house in Wales (1994).

The first major build commission that earned her international recognition was the Vitra fire station

in Weil Am Rhein, Germany (1993), but her scheme to build the Cardiff opera house was scrapped in

the 1990s and she did not produce a major building in the UK until the Riverside museum of

transport in Glasgow was completed in 2011.

Other notable projects included the Maxxi: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome

(2009), the London aquatics centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011), the Heydar Aliyev centre in

Baku (2013) and a stadium for the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar.

Buildings such as the Rosenthal Centre of Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (2003) and the Guangzhou

opera house in China (2010) were also hailed as architecture that transformed ideas of the future.

Other designs include the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens, west London, and the

BMW factory in Leipzig, one of her first designs to be built.

She became the first female recipient of the Pritzker architecture prize in 2004 and twice won the

UK’s most prestigious architecture award, the RIBA Stirling prize. Other awards included the Republic

of France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale.

Hadid won acclaim in Scotland for designing the popular Riverside Museum in Glasgow, known for

its distinctive roof structure. Muriel Gray, chair of the board of governors at the Glasgow School of

Art, tweeted a picture of the Riverside museum with the message: “Horrible shocking news that

Zaha Hadid, incredible architectural trailblazer has just died. Huge loss to design.”

Hadid was recently awarded the RIBA’s 2016 royal gold medal, the first woman to be awarded the

honour in her own right.

Architect Sir Peter Cook wrote in his citation at the time: “In our current culture of ticking every box,

surely Zaha Hadid succeeds, since, to quote the royal gold medal criteria, she is someone who ‘has

made a significant contribution to the theory or practice of architecture … for a substantial body of

work rather than for work which is currently fashionable’.

“For three decades now she has ventured where few would dare … Such self confidence is easily

accepted in film-makers and football managers, but causes some architects to feel uncomfortable.

Maybe they’re secretly jealous of her unquestionable talent. Let’s face it, we might have awarded

the medal to a worthy comfortable character. We didn’t. We awarded it to Zaha: larger than life,

bold as brass and certainly on the case.”

Speaking in February on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, Hadid said: “I don’t really feel I’m part of

the establishment. I’m not outside, I’m on the kind of edge, I’m dangling there. I quite like it … I’m

not against the establishment per se. I just do what I do and that’s it.”


Levete, who co-designed the spaceship-like media centre at Lord’s cricket ground, described her as

“a true and loyal friend … a confidante and someone I could turn to for advice”.

She said: “She was an absolute inspiration to many and her global impact was really profound.”

Kelly Hoppen, the interior designer who appeared in BBC2’s show Dragons’ Den, tweeted: “Deeply

saddened by the news of Zaha Hadid’s death. She was an iconic architect who pushed the

boundaries to another level xx ZahaHadid”

Angela Brady, a former president of RIBA, described Hadid as “one of our greatest architects of our


She added: “She was a tough architect, which is needed as a woman at the top of her profession and

at the height of her career. She will be sadly missed as an iconic leader in architecture and as a role

model for women in architecture.”

A spokeswoman for BMW said: “She was an icon in the world of architecture, groundbreaking in her

way to create with a very distinctive style. On the 10th anniversary of our Leipzig plant’s central

building which she was the architect for , Zaha said that she felt it gave testament to the plant’s

vision. We are glad she felt this way, too.”

Author Kathy Lette tweeted Hadid’s “beautiful, undulating feminine designs proved that u didn’t

need a phallic edifice complex 2 be a brilliant architect”.

Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet director and dancer, tweeted: “Devastated by the passing of the

great Zaha Hadid” with a picture of “her stunning Opera House in Guangzhou where we performed

last year”.