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The One and Only… still proving that she’s more than a Woman — Orthogonal Paradigm

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

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The One and Only… still proving that she’s more than a Woman


In an experiment aimed to prove a particular hypothesis, I asked a group of random architectural designers, interior designers, and urban planners to jot down the first thing that came to mind when a few of today’s starchitects were mentioned.  The results (as honestly as they were delivered) were as follows:

Sir Norman Foster
The Gherkin, Renault Distribution, Millennium Tower, trendsetter, “target” architecture, expensive yacht in a recession, high tech architecture, phallic buildings, glass

Frank Ghery
Guggenheim Bilbao, Dancing House Prague, metal, disappointing, wasteful, over-rated, iridescent purple, sculptures, shallow, flashy, little substance, “his projects look like beer cans that someone stepped on”

Zaha Hadid
Abu Dhabi bridge, woman, female, curves, Ursula, brilliant, innovative, explores theory in depth, slit windows, rocks, corners, black,

Rem Koolhaas
McCormick Tribune Campus Center, S M L XL , kitch colors, un-evolved, meh, F—K the context!, blocks, modules, simplicity, array, architecture of  no scale, squares, pretentious

Jean Nouvel
Project of Mariinsky Theater, Classical Museum (UAE), transparent patterns, shiny, Dr. Evil, intricate patterns, sensual architecture, artistic, red, facades

Renzo Piano
Pompidou, Beauborg, Art Institute Bridge, Nasher Sculpture Center, wood, bamboo, brilliant, detail oriented, bridge, progressive, clean white lines, a builder, Genova, soft architecture

Now granted, you can take any of these architects and have a valid argument that some of the answers were quite predictable, but there is one architect in particular I would like to highlight in contrast with the others, Zaha Hadid – “woman.”  I knew this answer would find its way into the responses. In a profession where women compose 41% of the graduating class,1 but surprisingly only 27% of the workforce,2 what else could be expected?  An architect that is famous, accomplished, frequently acknowledged, and a woman is a rarity in architecture.  So it’s no wonder “female” came to the forefront when Hadid’s name is mentioned. However, I was quite surprised that fewer answers to this quick experiment revolved around her gender (especially not as many as I thought).

As a winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004), a designer of over 34 built and officially proposed projects, and the subject of numerous publications, exhibitions, and articles, it is quite time the world sees Zaha Hadid as more than a woman.  Hadid’s accomplishments should in no manner be down-played given the mere fact that they are historical, prestigious and unique.  However, it was quite refreshing to see that the reviews of her design for the Maxxi, the National Center for Contemporary Arts in Rome, focused more on the intentions and execution of the design, rather than the characteristics of the architect which are omitted when discussing designers such as Richard Meier, Kenzo Tange, or Peter Eisenman.

The following links are to the museum itself and reviews.  The Maxxi was opened this past weekend in Rome, Italy for a limited two-day visit; the official opening for its first exhibit is expected in 2010.


Refugee Bonus: In the celebration of Zaha Hadid’s newest addition to the realm of architecture and her accomplishments as well, here’s a link to briefly introduce you to other trailblazers in architecture who happen to be women.  Enjoy! http://architecture.about.com/od/greatarchitects/tp/womenarchitects.htm

What do you think about Zaha Hadid’s newest project? Let us know in the comments below.

1 National Accrediting Board Report, 2008
2 American Institute of Architects Firm Survey, 2009
Image source: NY Times Slide Show – Slide 6

About Sirobe Carstafhnur


  1. Shomari says:

    Awesome article!

  2. robert n says:

    sounds like the writer of this article is a woman who may be the next ZAHA HADID. she has a good eye

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