Since 1848 The Royal Gold Medal for architecture has been awarded annually to distinguished architects, and occasionally engineers, by the Royal Institute of British Architects in the UK. Industry changing architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Luigi Canina and Jørn Utzon, have been among the recipients.
In the awards 168 year history not one woman has been amongst the celebrated, until now.
Dame Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, during a time of unprecedented industrial and cultural progress, where elements of the modern world sat comfortably alongside the ancient traditions and design of the middle east. She grew up in one of Baghdad’s first Bauhaus* inspired buildings and her father was leader of the Iraqi Progressive Democratic Party. Of the time Hadid told CNN, “There was a sense of optimism, we were building a new world that was demolished during the war. There were new ideas, new materials.”
Hadid studied mathematics in Beruit before heading abroad to study architecture in the UK, which she would then make her home.
Now in her 60s, with over 50 architectural works built, 16 exhibitions of her work and 20 awards and honours, Hadid’s ‘neofuturistic’, powerfully curved and geometric buildings are an influential fixture in contemporary architecture, design and cultural world. Hadid is still as prolific as ever, holding a professorial role at the University of Applied Arts Vienna and founding an architecture and design studio in London, currently boasting 950 projects in 44 countries.
* Bauhaus was a modernist art, design and cultural movement originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century.