Innovative architect had to fight as being woman was ‘a problem for some people’

As a woman architect facing scepticism and a barrage of criticism, Zaha Hadid struggled to get recognition in the UK.

As she said on BBC’s Desert Island Discs, “I’m a woman and that’s a problem for some people, I’m a foreigner, and I do work which is not normative, not what they expect.”

But she not only broke through the industry – she became one of the most innovative and influential architects of our time.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1950, Zaha studied mathematics in Beirut before moving to London on 1970 to attend the Architectural Association where she received her Diploma Prize in 1977 and in 1979 she formed Zaha Hadid Architects.

She struggled to gain commissions in Britain.

Her design for the Cardiff Bay Opera House was not realised despite twice winning competitions to do so.

However her considerable talents were recognised abroad and she completed a housing project in Berlin followed by the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, which helped launch her career.

Zaha went on to design many globally recognised buildings including the Aquatic Centre for the London Olympics.

She was the first woman to be awarded the Prizker Architecture Prize and the UK’s most prestigious architecture award, the Stirling Prize, in 2010 and 2011.

She was also the first woman to be individually awarded the Royal Gold Medal.

In 2012 she was made a Dame for her services to architecture, four years before her death in 2016, aged just 65.