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24 Sep 2015

A bittersweet year for Zaha Hadid

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Category: Architecture

Zaha Hadid is to become the first sole woman to receive RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal, which is awarded in recognition of a lifetime’s work.

The news must come as a boost at the end of a tricky year regarding bad press surrounding the Al-Wakrah stadium in Qatar and the Tokyo Olympic stadium. Hadid cut short a live BBC Radio 4 interview yesterday when the presenter stated incorrect facts around the deaths of migrant workers in the Qatar project.

Probably the brightest shining female starchitect at present, the Baghdad-born architect is also the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and has twice won the RIBA Stirling prize. The Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku was named the Design Museum’s Design of the Year in 2014.

Her design for the Tokyo Olympic stadium, which has been compared to both a cycle helmet and a “gigantic white elephant” was rejected by the Japanese government over its £1.37bn price tag. Following two years of taut negotiations, budget cuts and redesigns, a second competition has been launched to find a new architect. The upper cost limit is £850m.

The Al-Wakrah stadium in Qatar for the 2022 Football World Cup, which she designed, was mired in scandal in June when a Washington Post blog alleged that 1,200 migrant workers had died during its construction. The Qatari government denied there’d been a single death on the site, which Hadid repeated in her interview with the BBC.

The 2015 Gold Medal went to husband and wife duo Sheila O’Donnell + John Tuomey (read profile) in 2015, while other recipients include Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright.

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