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ARCHITECTURE'S LEADING LADY: the legacy of Zaha Hadid

The great British-Iraqi architect permanently changed our landscape (both literally and figuratively!) In honor of Women's History Month, we celebrate this legend who will forever live on as an inspiration to future generations of aspiring female architects.

words by Spoorthi Satheesh

photos courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

portrait of Zaha Hadid by Brigitte Lacombe

As a student of architecture and current master's degree candidate, I have lived and breathed the subject for the past seven years. As a writer, I am passionate about penning stories about many influential talents in this discipline and their respective projects. And as a proud woman who hopes to leave my own mark, there has been no greater inspiration for me than Zaha Hadid. Regarded as the greatest female architect of her time, Hadid was a "STARchitect" who set the most fantastic stage for women designers by empowering them to shatter the stigmas of society. In her lifetime (which was cut short far too soon), Zaha Hadid broke barriers while reshaping architecture for the modern epoch.

“There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?”- Zaha Hadid

photo: Hufton + Crow

Hadid's globally significant work - defined by graceful curves and organic forms - bears a sensibility that is uniquely the late architect's own. With fierce determination, the female icon not only succeeded in building the “unbuildable,” but was also the first woman to garner such prestigious design awards such as the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal.

photo: Alberto Heras

Over the past 40 years, the London-based architecture and design firm Zaha Hadid Architects has become one of the most celebrated architecture practices in the world. Today, five years after Zaha's untimely passing, the organization still continues to crash through the ceiling of innovation with each new project. Currently, ZHA is breaking its own record, working on 60 projects in 27 countries, and remains committed to honoring Hadid’s legacy by building transformative structures across six continents. In the words of the ZHA team: “Zaha will always be embedded within the DNA of Zaha Hadid Architects. Her innovative working methods and principles continue to drive and inspire us every day."

This Women’s History Month, we at DESIGN RAVEN celebrate Hadid’s unmatched legacy by highlighting our five favorite Zaha projects. May the work - and the woman behind it - inspire all women, regardless of what their aspirations might be.


One Thousand Museum is a standout along the Miami skyline. photo: Hufton + Crow

Completed in 2020 for 1000 Biscayne Tower LLC, One Thousand Museum is a massive 62-story residential tower with panoramic views of Biscayne Bay. It stands opposite the 30-acre Museum Park, redeveloped in 2013 and one of downtown Miami’s most popular public spaces. The tower’s design displays “fluid architectural expression” that is consistent throughout the height of the structure; it reads as one continuous frame. “The design expresses a fluidity that is both structural and architectural,” explains Zaha Hadid Architects’ project director Chris Lepine. “The structure gets thicker and thinner as required, bringing a continuity between the architecture and engineering.”

One Thousand Museum's glass fiber-reinforced concrete framework photo: Hufton + Crow

A faceted wall that lies within the exoskeleton flanks the indoor pool.

photo: Hufton + Crow

2) LEEZA SOHO, Beijing, China

exterior of Leeza SOHO photo: Hufton + Crow

Completed in 2019 for SOHO China Ltd., Leeza SOHO is a 45-story tower that anchors the new Fengtai business district- a growing financial hub that is integral to Beijing’s multimodal urban plan - and responds to the demands of both small and medium-sized businesses for flexible and efficient office spaces. Straddling an underground subway service tunnel that diagonally dissects its site, the Leeza SOHO tower’s design divides its volume into two halves enclosed by a single shell.

photo: Hufton + Crow

As the glass façade allows for panoramic views across the city, the rotation of the atrium intertwines Leeza SOHO’s two halves in a dynamic "pas de deux," with connecting sky bridges on levels 13, 24, 35 and 45. The resulting space between these halves is the world’s tallest atrium (at 194.15 meters); it rotates through the building as the tower rises to realign the upper floors with the road to its north.

photo: Hufton + Crow

3) OPUS Dubai, United Arab Emirates

exterior of Opus photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu

Completed in 2020 for Omniyat Properties, Opus houses the ME Dubai Hotel - the only hotel in which Zaha Hadid designed both the architecture and interiors. Spanning 907,400-square-feet and located in the Burj Khalifa district adjacent to Downtown Dubai and Business Bay of the Dubai Water Canal, the hotel masterfully explores the juxtapositions between solid & void, opaque & transparent, interior & exterior. The Opus was designed as two separate towers that coalesce into a singular whole, and takes the form of a cube that has been "eroded" in its center. The resulting freeform void is an important volume of the design. “The precise orthogonal geometries of the Opus’ elemental glass cube contrast dramatically with the fluidity of the eight-story void at its center,” says Christos Passas, project director at Zaha Hadid Architects.

The two halves of the building on either side of the void are linked by a four-story atrium at ground level and connected by an asymmetric three-story bridge that is 125 ft. wide and 233 ft. above the ground. photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu

ME Dubai Hotel interior photo: Laurian Ghinitoiu

4) GENERALI TOWER, Milan, Italy

Completed in 2018 for the CityLife Consortium, the Generali Tower is an integral part of the 90-acre CityLife master plan. The newly completed site has revitalized what was previously the trade fairgrounds with year-round public amenities including civic spaces, public parks, residential areas, shopping districts, and corporate offices. Aligned at ground level with three of the city’s primary axes that converge within CityLife, the 44-story Generali Tower is defined by its surrounding urban fabric to connect directly with the city.

Inclined white columns running up either side of the twist provide a visual link to the white podium below that extends to the rear of the tower and holds a retail and cinema complex. photo: Hufton + Crow

The helical twist reduces incrementally with the height of each floor above street level, giving all floors a fractionally different relationship to the ones above and below it. A double-façade of louvres and glazing deflects the sun, providing climate control for each floor. photo: Hufton + Crow

A bar and retail shopping emporium exist at the ground level within Generali.

photo: Jacopo Spilimbergo

5) 520 WEST 28, New York City, USA

520 West 28 rises above downtown NYC. photo: Hufton + Crow

Completed in 2018 for Related Companies in New York City, 520 West 28 has become a new Manhattan landmark that embodies the powerful urban dynamic between the streets of New York and the High Line West Chelsea - one of NYC's premier districts for arts & culture. The boutique condominium building's eleven stories hold 39 exclusive two-to-five-bedroom residences. 520 West 28 adds a new dimension to the ever-evolving site while setting a new bar for residential architecture within the city.

The distinctive steel façade, formed into interlocking chevrons, defines the separate living spaces. photo: Hufton + Crow

A 25-yard sky-lit lap pool is one of many impressive amenities. photo: Scott Frances

Each unit includes a Boffi kitchen by Zaha Hadid Design. photo: Scott Frances

As Zaha Hadid so eloquently stated: “Your success will not be determined by your gender or your ethnicity, but only by the scope of your dreams and your hard work to achieve them." Let her everlasting spirit serve as a reminder to our fellow divas out there: Now and forevermore, it's your time to shine!

photo: Steve Double

To learn more about the work of ZHA, visit:

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