Meet Lady Zaha

If you’re anything like most people, right now you’re probably scratching your head saying, “Who is Lady Zaha”? Chances are, unless you are an architect (she is the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize—considered to be the Nobel Prize of architecture), you won’t even recognize her name.

Warning: The following sentences will do her remarkable body of work little justice.

Zaha Hadid  was born in 1950 in Bagdad, Iraq. She received her degree in mathematics from American University in Beirut in 1971. One year later in 1972 she earned her degree in Architecture from the Architectural Association in London. She started her our firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, in 1979 and is based in London.

I first heard of Zaha back in the early 2000s, when BMW decided to build a $1.55 billion complex in Leipzig, Germany. After an exhaustive search, BMW selected Zaha Hadid for this project.

Zaha recently designed the new Riverside Museum of Transport in Glasgow (officially opened to the public in June of 2011). This was not an easy assignment. As Paul Golberger writes in the New Yorker, “…the museum is in a bleak part of Glasgow that was decimated by American-style urban renewal.”

But I feel that’s why Zaha got the job—she is a master storyteller and a great observer of life. Here’s Paul Golberger again, “…the purpose of this museum is to give these streetcars and fire engines new life in a post-industrial world…You begin to understand what Hadid was trying to do when you look across the river to the lone remaining shipyard, where amid the cranes and dry-docks stands a huge metal shed with a zigzagging roof, used for framing hulls. She took the shed as a starting point, but any architect with a pair of eyes could have done that. What Hadid saw was that, in echoing the shed, it was possible to arrive at a perfect metaphor for the evolution of an old industrial city like Glasgow. The city has gone from a place where people labor at making things to a place where people come at their leisure to be entertained;  Hadid has taken something hard, though, and workday and made it fluid and inviting.”
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I decided to share this short post with you for two reasons:

1. To suggest that good ideas do not have to be new ideas.
2. To remind you of my up-to-date favourite definition of creativity:
   Creativity is the best use of the obvious.