Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 – the first woman to do so – whilst her designs were awarded the RIBA the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011. Each of her projects builds on over thirty years of exploration and research in the interrelated fields of urbanism, architecture and design.
Zaha was selected by De Beers and our curator Mary McCartney for her passion in architecture and design, a true leader in the field of architecture, Zaha was awarded Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2012.
Set in Zaha Hadid's artful and dramatic London design studio, the photo shoot curated by Mary McCartney perfectly captured Zaha's creative spirit.
IS THERE ANY ONE THING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU BELIEVE HELPED YOU ACHIEVE A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN ARCHITECTURE?
When I was growing up in Iraq, as in so many places in the world at the time, there was an unbroken belief in progress and a great sense of optimism. Iraq was a new republic in a moment of nation-building. There was a lot of emphasis on architecture. It was an incredible period of social reform. The ideas of change, liberation and freedom of this era have been critical to my development.
Out of all your achievements in your career or life, which one is the most meaningful to you?
My friends and family are most important to me. Time doesn’t stop when you’re working to meet a deadline – and the intensity of working under such pressure can create great things – but you must never neglect your friends and family. They will always be your greatest support.
What would you say is your next big goal?
An important aspect of being an architect is to make people feel good in the spaces where we live, go to school or where we work – so we must be committed to raising standards. I believe that all people should have a good home and access to good schools and hospitals. Architects now have the skills and tools to address these critical issues.
At de beers our jewellery is inspired by the beauty of nature, where do you find your inspiration?
My ideas come from observation: of the site, of nature, of people in the city. What is different today from previous times is that we are no longer ruled by the scale of the stonemason. We can be far more ambitious! Science and nature have also been an inspiration: landscape, biology, all living things. People do ask ‘why are there no straight lines, why no 90 degrees in your work?’ This is because life is not made in a grid. If you think of a natural landscape, it’s not even and regular – but people go to these places and think it’s very natural, very relaxing. I think that one can do that in architecture.
What is your moment in light?
Realising these ambitious projects is the most rewarding of experiences – and I’m always very proud to see them become popular and well-used. It is exciting to work with enthusiastic clients and collaborators who share our vision and demonstrate tremendous civic pride. These are vital characteristics that allow an architect to build extraordinary projects!
In what ways do you hope to inspire other women?
I never thought of myself as a role model. In the beginning of my career, I always thought I didn’t want to be known as a ‘woman architect’. But later, I realized that it is critical I acknowledge the fact that as a woman, I could influence or inspire others who are looking for reassurance. So I think it’s important that I can – in some very modest way – help others to achieve their ambitions.
What advice would you give to women starting out in their career today?
Never give up! I’ve achieved some success – and I am extremely grateful – but it’s always been a very long struggle. I think it is very important for a woman to have the commitment to persevere, and you must have a strong belief in yourself. As a woman, you need the confidence that you can carry on and take new steps every time. So I believe in hard work; it gives you that layer of confidence. I’ve always believed in my work and know that it will carry me through any difficult situation. You won’t always get everything right, every time – but you have to keep trying.