Painting As A Way of Driving Design

Innovations often come through  developing a way of being. With the recent death of Zaha Hadid we’ve lost one of the most significant architects working today, but also someone who looked at making buildings from a surprising and different point of view. She developed a way of being and an identity as a designer though her artwork, and her paintings fed the building design process especially before she had any major clients.

Her paintings are recognized as art in their own right and some of the best were done for an early design competition in Hong Kong. Her work is influenced by the Russian Avant Garde and a movement called suprematism.

  A painting Zaha Hadid created for The Peaks design competition.

Zaha Hadid 1950-2016: She Changed The Face of Architecture

Zaha Hadid. Image from Dezeen.

When I met Zaha Hadid in 1995 or 1996, at a lecture at the University of Michigan, I had no idea the contribution she would make to architecture. At the time she had completed the fire station for Vitra in Weil am Rhein but very few other buildings. I remember her slide show was mostly comprised of photos of her paintings and drawings. She had ideas for building that broke with convention and charted new territory, and was only then just getting started.

Fire Station, Weil Am Rhein. Image from Encyclopedia Britannica.

She died this week and has left a legacy of buildings all over the world, both beautiful and difficult, that challenge ideas about what architecture should be. This week she has been eulogized by the other luminaries of the profession and the press alike. Perhaps most noteworthy is that a Muslim woman, born in Baghdad, has changed the face of a male dominated profession. 

 Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku, Azerbaijan. By Zaha Hadid Architects. Image from Dezeen.