"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid

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By Byron Loker / Published by Dwell
When Zaha Hadid passed away in March 2016, she left the world of architecture with an irreplaceable legacy. As the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004), she was described by the Guardian of London as the "Queen of the curve" who "liberated architectural geometry, giving it a whole new expressive identity."

Hadid received the United Kingdom's most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, she was made a Dame by Elizabeth II for services to architecture, and in 2015, she became the first woman to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects.  

Some of her designs have been presented posthumously, including the statuette for the 2017 Brit Awards—and many of her buildings are still under construction, including the Al Wakrah Stadium in Doha, a venue for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Here is a selection of her awe-inspiring projects that spanned her entire career.


Vitra Fire Station (1994) in Weil am Rhein, Germany

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 1 of 18 - After a fire destroyed the Weil am Rhein fire station in 1981, it fell to the 43-year-old Hadid, who had spent the better part of the last decade lecturing and sketching, to design the replacement building. Hadid has said that the structure is almost like a piece of Land Art due to the way the slim profile defines a narrow corridor.

After a fire destroyed the Weil am Rhein fire station in 1981, it fell to the 43-year-old Hadid, who had spent the better part of the last decade lecturing and sketching, to design the replacement building. Hadid has said that the structure is almost like a piece of Land Art due to the way the slim profile defines a narrow corridor.

Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (2003) in Cincinnati, Ohio

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 2 of 18 - The Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art was Hadid's first American project. Hailed by the New York Times Architecture Critic Herbert Muschamp as "the most important American building to be completed since the cold war," the project was the brainchild of Director Charles Desmarais.

The Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art was Hadid's first American project. Hailed by the New York Times Architecture Critic Herbert Muschamp as "the most important American building to be completed since the cold war," the project was the brainchild of Director Charles Desmarais.

BMW Central Building (2005) in Leipzig, Germany

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 3 of 18 - The central building is the nerve center for BMW's new $1.55 billion complex built to manufacture the BMW 3 Series vehicle. Hadid's design took the idea of connectivity and used it to inform every aspect of the new building. It serves as a connection for the assembly process steps and the employees. Designed as a series of overlapping and interconnecting levels and spaces, it blurs the separation between parts of the complex and creates a level ground for employees, visitors, and the cars.

The central building is the nerve center for BMW's new $1.55 billion complex built to manufacture the BMW 3 Series vehicle. Hadid's design took the idea of connectivity and used it to inform every aspect of the new building. It serves as a connection for the assembly process steps and the employees. Designed as a series of overlapping and interconnecting levels and spaces, it blurs the separation between parts of the complex and creates a level ground for employees, visitors, and the cars.

R. Lopez De Heredia Wine Pavilion (2001–2006) in Haro, La Rioja, Spain

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 4 of 18 - López de Heredia commissioned Hadid to crate a new extension to their existing bodegas, which now houses the old stand and a shop, entertainment and exhibition area, citing "the spectacular nature, innovation, art, daring and subtlety of her work." 

López de Heredia commissioned Hadid to crate a new extension to their existing bodegas, which now houses the old stand and a shop, entertainment and exhibition area, citing "the spectacular nature, innovation, art, daring and subtlety of her work." 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 5 of 18 - The 3,000-square-meter Issam Fares Institute building is defined by the many routes and connections within AUB, interweaving the pathways and views within the campus to create a forum for the exchange of ideas—a center of interaction and dialogue—at the heart of the university. 

The 3,000-square-meter Issam Fares Institute building is defined by the many routes and connections within AUB, interweaving the pathways and views within the campus to create a forum for the exchange of ideas—a center of interaction and dialogue—at the heart of the university. 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 6 of 18 - Hadid described this museum as "not an object-container, but rather a campus for art" where flows and pathways overlap and connect in order to create a dynamic and interactive space. Entering the atrium, the main elements of the project are evident: concrete curved walls, suspended black staircases, and an open ceiling that catches natural light. By implementing these elements, Hadid intended to create "a new fluid kind of spatiality of multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry, designed to embody the chaotic fluidity of modern life."

Hadid described this museum as "not an object-container, but rather a campus for art" where flows and pathways overlap and connect in order to create a dynamic and interactive space. Entering the atrium, the main elements of the project are evident: concrete curved walls, suspended black staircases, and an open ceiling that catches natural light. By implementing these elements, Hadid intended to create "a new fluid kind of spatiality of multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry, designed to embody the chaotic fluidity of modern life."

Guangzhou Opera House (2010) in Guangzhou, People's Republic of China 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 7 of 18 - A review in the New York Times says of Guangzhou Opera House, "The beauty of Ms. Hadid’s design stems partly from the skill with which she knits her forms into this insipid context [the project stands at the edge of a vast, featureless park]... [A] sequence of spaces ties the opera house into the park around it, redeeming what until now was little-used space...It establishes the opera house and its grounds as part of the public realm—something that belongs to everyone, not just elite opera fans. The Guangzhou Opera House is a monument to a particular crossroads in China’s history, as well as to Ms. Hadid’s stellar career."

A review in the New York Times says of Guangzhou Opera House, "The beauty of Ms. Hadid’s design stems partly from the skill with which she knits her forms into this insipid context [the project stands at the edge of a vast, featureless park]... [A] sequence of spaces ties the opera house into the park around it, redeeming what until now was little-used space...It establishes the opera house and its grounds as part of the public realm—something that belongs to everyone, not just elite opera fans. The Guangzhou Opera House is a monument to a particular crossroads in China’s history, as well as to Ms. Hadid’s stellar career."

Sheikh Zayed Bridge (2007–2010) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 8 of 18 - Conceived in an open setting, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge has the prospect of becoming a destination in itself and a potential catalyst in the future urban growth of Abu Dhabi. A collection—or strands of structures—gathered on one shore, are lifted and "propelled" over the length of the channel. A sinusoidal wave form provides the structural shape across the channel.

Conceived in an open setting, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge has the prospect of becoming a destination in itself and a potential catalyst in the future urban growth of Abu Dhabi. A collection—or strands of structures—gathered on one shore, are lifted and "propelled" over the length of the channel. A sinusoidal wave form provides the structural shape across the channel.

London Aquatics Centre (2011) for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, United Kingdom 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 9 of 18 - One of the main venues of the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2012 Summer Paralympics, the center was used for the swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming events. After significant modification, the center opened to the public in March 2014. "All of the world-class sporting venues on the magnificent Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park have secured bright futures, dispelling fears of white elephants and helping to drive our ambitious regeneration plans for east London," then-mayor of London Boris Johnson said after the reopening.

One of the main venues of the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2012 Summer Paralympics, the center was used for the swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming events. After significant modification, the center opened to the public in March 2014. "All of the world-class sporting venues on the magnificent Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park have secured bright futures, dispelling fears of white elephants and helping to drive our ambitious regeneration plans for east London," then-mayor of London Boris Johnson said after the reopening.

CMA CGM Tower (2004–2011) in Marseilles, France 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 10 of 18 - Hadid's "union of complexity and subtlety, daring and femininity in her works," appealed to CMA CGM Group. They commissioned her to design a new head office—a 147-meter-high tower and a 135-meter-long annex—to "represent CMA CGM Group's daring and initiative." The CMA CGM Tower is at once a symbol and a link between the port and the city of Marseille, anchoring the Group to its environment and its time.

Hadid's "union of complexity and subtlety, daring and femininity in her works," appealed to CMA CGM Group. They commissioned her to design a new head office—a 147-meter-high tower and a 135-meter-long annex—to "represent CMA CGM Group's daring and initiative." The CMA CGM Tower is at once a symbol and a link between the port and the city of Marseille, anchoring the Group to its environment and its time.

Capital Hill Residence (2011) in Moscow, Russia 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 11 of 18 - Capital Hill Residence is a villa in Barvikha Forest close to Moscow, which was designed for Russian property developer Vladislav Doronin. Completed in 2011, it's the only private house that Hadid built during her lifetime.

Capital Hill Residence is a villa in Barvikha Forest close to Moscow, which was designed for Russian property developer Vladislav Doronin. Completed in 2011, it's the only private house that Hadid built during her lifetime.

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre (2007–2012) in Baku, Azerbaijan 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 12 of 18 - Zaha Hadid Architects was appointed as design architects of the Heydar Aliyev Center following a competition in 2007. The center, designed to become the primary building for Azerbaijan's cultural programs, breaks from the rigid and often monumental Soviet architecture that's so prevalent in Baku, aspiring instead to express the sensibilities of Azeri culture and the optimism of a nation that looks to the future.

Zaha Hadid Architects was appointed as design architects of the Heydar Aliyev Center following a competition in 2007. The center, designed to become the primary building for Azerbaijan's cultural programs, breaks from the rigid and often monumental Soviet architecture that's so prevalent in Baku, aspiring instead to express the sensibilities of Azeri culture and the optimism of a nation that looks to the future.

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 13 of 18 - The Library and Learning Centre rises as a polygonal block from the heart of the campus. The interior of the LLC is informed by the external circulation of the masterplan, which maps out the different levels of the building. The straight lines of the building’s exterior separate as they move inward, becoming curvilinear and fluid to generate a free-formed interior canyon that serves as the principal public plaza of the center, as well as  generating corridors and bridges ensuring smooth transitions between different levels.

The Library and Learning Centre rises as a polygonal block from the heart of the campus. The interior of the LLC is informed by the external circulation of the masterplan, which maps out the different levels of the building. The straight lines of the building’s exterior separate as they move inward, becoming curvilinear and fluid to generate a free-formed interior canyon that serves as the principal public plaza of the center, as well as generating corridors and bridges ensuring smooth transitions between different levels.

Napoli Afragola Railway Station (2003–) in Naples, Italy 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 14 of 18 - Still under construction, the Napoli Afragola Railway Station will be located three kilometers north of the city center, and will become a gateway to the city while serving as a catalyst for future development. Also known as the "bridge above the tracks," the design features an innovative bridge concept. The station will be developed similarly to a 400-meter aerial bridge, which will cross over platforms without intruding upon the landscape or road network. The bridge will be formed by enlarging the overhead concourse, which will also serve as the main passenger concourse. The main building will be covered with large glass panels in winding shapes, making the structure look like a moving train.

Still under construction, the Napoli Afragola Railway Station will be located three kilometers north of the city center, and will become a gateway to the city while serving as a catalyst for future development. Also known as the "bridge above the tracks," the design features an innovative bridge concept. The station will be developed similarly to a 400-meter aerial bridge, which will cross over platforms without intruding upon the landscape or road network. The bridge will be formed by enlarging the overhead concourse, which will also serve as the main passenger concourse. The main building will be covered with large glass panels in winding shapes, making the structure look like a moving train.

Dongdaemun Design Plaza (2008–2014) in Seoul, South Korea 

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 15 of 18 - DDP was the first public project in Korea to utilize the Three-Dimensional Building Information Modelling (BIM) and other digital tools in construction. Throughout the design process, every building requirement was considered as a set of interrelated spatial relationships defining the social interactions and behavioral structure in and around the project. These relationships became the framework of the design, defining how different aspects of the project—such as spatial organization, programmatic requirements, and engineering—come together.

DDP was the first public project in Korea to utilize the Three-Dimensional Building Information Modelling (BIM) and other digital tools in construction. Throughout the design process, every building requirement was considered as a set of interrelated spatial relationships defining the social interactions and behavioral structure in and around the project. These relationships became the framework of the design, defining how different aspects of the project—such as spatial organization, programmatic requirements, and engineering—come together.

Investcorp Building, St Antony's College (2013–2015) in Oxford, United Kingdom

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 16 of 18 - The Investcorp Building integrates new academic and research facilities within a design that's defined by the existing built and natural environment of the college. The project maintains the detached character of the college’s current buildings, allowing them to be read as separate elements, while introducing a contemporary building that conveys the past, present, and future evolution of the college, university, and city.

The Investcorp Building integrates new academic and research facilities within a design that's defined by the existing built and natural environment of the college. The project maintains the detached character of the college’s current buildings, allowing them to be read as separate elements, while introducing a contemporary building that conveys the past, present, and future evolution of the college, university, and city.

Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre (2016) in Nanjing, China  

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 17 of 18 - The Culture and Conference Centre masterplan expresses the continuity, fluidity and connectivity between the urban environment of Hexi New Town, the agricultural farmland along the Yangtze river and the rural landscapes of Jiangxinzhou Island. The complex consists of two towers rising from a five-story, mixed-use podium. The taller of the towers rises 68 floors and contains a 5-star hotel and office floors, while the 59-story tower houses an additional hotel to accommodate visitors to the conference center below.

The Culture and Conference Centre masterplan expresses the continuity, fluidity and connectivity between the urban environment of Hexi New Town, the agricultural farmland along the Yangtze river and the rural landscapes of Jiangxinzhou Island. The complex consists of two towers rising from a five-story, mixed-use podium. The taller of the towers rises 68 floors and contains a 5-star hotel and office floors, while the 59-story tower houses an additional hotel to accommodate visitors to the conference center below.

Port House (2009–2016) in Antwerp, Belgium

"Queen of the Curve": 18 Influential Works by Zaha Hadid - Photo 18 of 18 - With 12 kilometers of docks, Antwerp is Europe’s second largest shipping port, serving 15,000 sea trade ships and 60,000 inland barges each year. The new Port House in Antwerp repurposes, renovates, and extends a derelict fire station into a new headquarters for the port—bringing together the port’s 500 staff members that previously worked in separate buildings around the city. The facade’s rippling quality is generated with flat facets to the south that gradually become more three-dimensional towards to the north. This perception of a transparent volume, cut to give the new building its sparkling appearance, reinterprets Antwerp’s moniker as the city of diamonds.

With 12 kilometers of docks, Antwerp is Europe’s second largest shipping port, serving 15,000 sea trade ships and 60,000 inland barges each year. The new Port House in Antwerp repurposes, renovates, and extends a derelict fire station into a new headquarters for the port—bringing together the port’s 500 staff members that previously worked in separate buildings around the city. The facade’s rippling quality is generated with flat facets to the south that gradually become more three-dimensional towards to the north. This perception of a transparent volume, cut to give the new building its sparkling appearance, reinterprets Antwerp’s moniker as the city of diamonds.

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