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The Grande Dame of Architecture

1 August, 2014

Zaha Hadid’s neofuturistic, powerful designs have earned her the highest international recognitions, with one of her latest projects, The Opus, currently taking shape in Dubai.

Zaha Hadid, founder of Zaha Hadid Architects, was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 and is internationally known for her built, theoretical and academic work. Each of her projects builds on over thirty years of exploration and research in the interrelated fields of urbanism, architecture and design.

Built all over the world, Hadid’s projects have a unique design. The latest of them, The City of Dreams Hotel and The Opus Dubai with the interiors designed by the architect, are no exception – her “handwriting” is easily recognised in both.

“There is a style, but the work didn’t come out of wanting to stylise something. It started off through figuring out what to do with lightness or flight. Later it had to do more with topography and landscape, emulating a natural form,” explains Zaha Hadid.


Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before moving to London in 1972 to attend the Architectural Association (AA) School where she was awarded the Diploma Prize in 1977. She founded Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) in 1979 and completed her first building, the Vitra Fire Station, Germany in 1993.

Hadid taught at the AA School until 1987 and has since held numerous chairs and guest professorships at universities around the world. She is currently a professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and visiting professor of Architectural Design at Yale University.

Working with senior office partner, Patrik Schumacher, Hadid’s interest lies in the rigorous interface between architecture, urbanism, landscape and geology as her practice integrates natural topography and human-made systems, leading to innovation with new technologies.

The MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games, and Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku are built manifestos of Hadid’s quest for complex, fluid space. Previous seminal buildings such as the Rosenthal Centre for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati and the Guangzhou Opera House in China have also been hailed as architecture that transforms ideas of the future with new spatial concepts and dynamic, visionary forms.

“I am equally proud of all of my architectural projects. It’s always rewarding to see an ambitious design become reality,” says Hadid.
Currently Zaha Hadid Architects is working on a multitude of projects worldwide including: the High-Speed Train Station in Naples; the CityLife masterplan and tower in Milan; the New National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; the Middle East Centre at St. Antony’s College Oxford University; Sky Soho in Shanghai; 520 W28th Street in New York as well as master-planning projects in Beijing, Istanbul and Singapore. ZHA’s portfolio also includes cultural, corporate, academic, sporting and infrastructure projects across Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North and South America, in addition to national institutions such as the new Central Bank of Iraq Headquarters and the Grand Theatre in Rabat.

Hadid’s outstanding contribution to the architectural profession continues to be acknowledged by the world’s most respected institutions including the Forbes List of the World’s Most Powerful Women and the Japan Art Association presenting her with the “Praemium Imperiale.” In 2010 and 2011, her designs were awarded the Stirling Prize, one of architecture’s highest accolades, by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Other recent awards include UNESCO naming Hadid as an “Artist for Peace,” the Republic of France honouring Hadid with the “Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres,” TIME magazine included her in their list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” and in 2012, Zaha Hadid was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.


The Opus Dubai, which is being built in the Burj Khalifa district, will be the location of the first “ME by Melia” hotel in the Middle East, developed by Omniyat. The project features signature interiors by Zaha Hadid Architects, restaurants and entertainment venues. The limited number of serviced apartments will include four penthouses with private roof terraces.

“Inspired by Omniyat and designed by legendary architect Zaha Hadid, The Opus will stand out as one of the most striking landmarks in the Dubai skyline. The 95 metre high Opus is a masterwork of design and Brookfield Multiplex has already completed 30 percent of the construction,” says Mahdi Amjad, Executive Chairman and CEO, Omniyat.

Commenting on the renderings of the hotel’s interiors designed by ZHA, Amjad said they conveyed the remarkably inventive quality of Hadid’s work, expressing a sculptural sensibility that reinvents the balance between solid and void, opaque and transparent, interior and exterior.

The Opus is designed as a series of separate towers that take the form of a united, singular whole – a cube. The cube is then carved to create the void that should be considered as an important volume within the building in its own right; it is free-formed and fluid, contrasting with the orthogonal edges of the cube, and serves as an integral element of the unified ensemble.

“Shaped by functional and programmatic considerations, yet dependent on the overriding formal language of the design, the interiors express Hadid’s investigations into the concepts of fluidity and of seamless spatial flow,” ZHA comment.

The ME by Melia hotel will feature Michelin star restaurants, lounges and cafes across an area of 250,000 square feet, with entertainment options selected from the best in the Middle East, New York, Miami, London and Las Vegas, according to Omniyat’s Executive Chairman & CEO.
Speaking on the progress of The Opus, Amjad announced that the over AED 2.5 billion project is more than halfway complete.