Hero or Tyrant? The 'Inimitable Orbit" of Zaha Hadid

Rowan Moore profiles Zaha Hadid, the polarizing architect who's benefited exceedingly from the global appeal of "iconic" architecture. Has the thrust of her pioneering early work been lost amid the astonishing growth of her practice?

"Over the past decade or so [Hadid] has gone from being the Architect Who Never Got Anything Built to someone who can't stop building," writes Moore. "At the turn of the millennium she was still best known for winning at an early age the competition to design the Peak in Hong Kong, a leisure complex that was never realised, and for her martyrdom in Cardiff. . . . Now her office boasts 400 staff and 950 projects in 44 countries. Their work includes colossal developments in Changsha, China, and in Bratislava, a large luxury villa in Moscow and a role advising on the airport that Boris Johnson would like to build in the Thames Estuary."

Moore chronicles some of the personal and professional dramas that have contributed to her mythology - the extraordinary demands, the stories of projects won and lost, and the stunning designs.

"Behind these stories questions recur: does her success, her associations with the mighty, her splendour, mean that she is losing touch with the complexities and contradictions that were once part of her work? Is she now in danger of favouring the spectacular to the exclusion of the dirty realities of cities, in which she used to profess an interest? If she has been dominating/generous, and grand/earthy, is the first half of each pairing now ascendant?"

Full Story: Zaha Hadid: queen of the curve

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