Often described as ‘brilliant’, ‘unstoppable’, ‘a trailblazer’ and one of the most influential architects of our time, Zaha Hadid has left a legacy after her sudden, premature death in early 2016. Not only did she push the boundaries of design with her avant-garde creations, she was also among the very few female architects to achieve a high level of success in an otherwise male-dominated industry. Here’s a closer look at the legacy and influence of Zaha Hadid:

An Architectural Legend’s Journey

Hadid was known for her mathematical mind and her future works would show it. She established her practice in 1979 in London but she would wait until 1993, when she completed the Vitra Fire Station project in Weil Am Rhein, Germany, to be truly recognized for her work. She had managed to tap into the power of digital technology to render her unique creation and people took note. Her career took off as she started working on more impressive projects, including the Heyday Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan which won her the London Design Museum’s Design of the Year award in 2014.

It was clear Hadid was going somewhere and wasn’t afraid to explore uncharted territory, pushing the limits of creativity and traditional design practices by creating awe-inspiring buildings. She was recognized by the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2006 which showcased many of her preliminary plans and designs for buildings that never came to life during the first 30 years of her career.  

Hadid was the first woman to receive the British RIBA Gold Metal in 2015. At her awards ceremony, she pointed out how challenging it was for a woman even of her caliber to succeed in a discipline where men have excelled in for decades. Regardless, Hadid had made a mark in the industry and continued to spearhead her success with speaking engagements about architectural theory and working on government-backed projects around the globe.

Sadly, Hadid died on March 31, 2016, while receiving treatment for bronchitis in Miami, Florida. She was just 65 years old. Hadid would never see some of her most ambitious projects come to life, including the developing plans of the stadium in Qatar that will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Hadid and Parametric Design

Perhaps one of Hadid’s most noteworthy endeavors was her designs created using software that pushes boundaries on traditional forms and structures. Hadid made use of digital animation techniques to render a completely new style with programmatic complexity. Many have described her style as avant-garde architecture combined with new urbanism trends, a fine example of contemporary and futuristic designs that embody key themes in society today.

Hadid’s signature style appears to be an adaptation of her Middle Eastern roots and cultural heritage. Wired Magazine describes how Hadid’s work was often compared to the fine details and nuances of Arabic calligraphy, a testament to her background. Her work is the perfect balance between aesthetics, form, and function rooted in mathematic principles. Hadid’s heavy reliance on algorithm-aided parametric design strategies paved the way for a new wave in architectural design, a style that is now easy to recognize even at a glance.

Hadid became widely known as the successful female architect on a first name basis, possibly something she had always dreamed of becoming. She left her legacy in the form of new ideas and approaches in urban design. Her use of advanced computation methods and digital tools to create her parametric designs and structures are now studied and replicated by aspiring and veteran architects ready to create their own award-winning designs. Her portfolio still contains some of the most ambitious projects our generation has seen, a collection of works that may soon come to life so future generations can benefit from Hadid’s legacy.