Last Thursday, on March 31, world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid died of complications from bronchitis that ended in a fatal heart attack. But it wasn't her death that is important (though certainly heartbreaking); it was her life and her architectural work that will linger on and inspire generations to come. As a Iraqi-born British woman of Muslim faith, Hadid had not one, but three (that are obviously evident) barriers to tackle and break through in order to achieve her dreams and ambitions of becoming a world-famous architect.
Her first completed commission, a firehouse in Germany, was met with great accolades from her fellow architects. But the firefighters hated the oddly shaped, sharp-angled building...and promptly moved out!
The fire house in Germany that's now an event space that can be rented out.
But Hadid was undeterred, and her next work, a 'relatively modest project' in Cincinnati, OH, for the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, ended up being called "the most important American building to be completed since the end of the Cold War" by none other than the architecture critic for the New York Times, Herbert Muschamp.
Hadid refused to let such restrictions as a 'modest project' definition keep her from building a genre-defying structure, and that trend would continue until she had smashed every restriction that stood in her way. One of her deepest desires, to be commissioned for buildings in Britain, finally happened when her Aquatic Centers for London's 2012 Summer Olympics were built, a "cathedral for water sports" and a now-city landmark.
Hadid never buckled under the criticisms early-on in her career that her structure were too "self-indulgent and impractical" - she knew what she loved, she knew what she wanted to build, and by God, did she build them, to dazzling finish. Her unwavering belief in her quality of work won her the 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize...and not only was she the first-ever woman to win it, but she was the first-ever Muslim to win it! Talk about breaking multiple intersectionality barriers.
Hadid's formal fluidity" of her work, and the "mobility, speed, and freedom of her structures" spoke to a younger generation who seemed to instinctively understand and resonate with the emotional ambiguity of her structures, such as the odd ways one had to enter the buildings and move through them, and her fellow architects were consistently puzzled at how her structures were even supported and stood up, due to her defying the logic of traditional geometry.
"Architecture is architecture" Hadid once said. "It has its own reason and trajectory. I am non-European, I am a woman, and I don't do conventional work. Sometimes it makes my work much easier, but sometimes it makes it far more difficult."
Csikszentmihalyi proposes that "a highly intrinsic motivated state is achieved when people are engaged in an activity where the challenges match their level of skill...a psychological 'high' wherein there are heightened feelings of enjoyment and a centering of concentration" - and that state is definitely achieved by Hadid's structures and work. By not stinting her creativity by succumbing to the pressures of being a 'traditional' architect, and by embracing her gender and religion/ethnicity rather than shunning it, she has achieved the epitome of creativity in her field.
RIP, Zaha Hadid. You will be missed.
Collins, M.A., & Amabile, T.M. (1999). Motivation and creativity. In Robert J. Sternberg (Ed.) Handbook of Creativity. New York: Cambridge University Press.