The uncompromising works of starchitect Zaha Hadid

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Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev Centre is one of Hadid's finest works(Credit: Iwan Baan)

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Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid has passed away suddenly from a heart attack in Miami, Florida, following her hospitalization for bronchitis. Hadid was 65 years old and is widely considered the most important female architect of all time. Let's look back on some of her most memorable works.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before attending the Architectural Association in London from 1972.

Launching her own London architectural practice seven years later, Hadid rose to prominence with purely conceptual works. Her first major commission to be built was the Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany. Completed in 1993, the hard concrete structure bends and tilts dizzyingly, and established Hadid's distinctive style.

The Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany(Credit: Christian Richter)

Winning an architectural competition to design the MAXXI Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome proved another milestone. The project took ten years to construct, finally completed in 2009. An ambitious medley of curves and intersecting tubes, it was immediately hailed a masterpiece by critics.

Rome's MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts(Credit: Iwan Baan)

More high-profile projects followed, including the London Aquatics Center, and the Guangzhou Opera House, both of which saw the architect at the top of her game.

The London Aquatics Center(Credit: Hufton+Crow)

Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev Centre is one of Hadid's finest works. Its flowing graceful curves were intended to offer a break from the country's distinctive Soviet-era architecture. The result is magnificent.

Azerbaijan's Heydar Aliyev Centre(Credit: Hufton+Crow)

However, even this high-point was marred somewhat by criticism leveled at Hadid on account of it being named after the country's former authoritarian leader, Heydar Aliyev. In addition, reports of human rights violations during construction made headlines.

Indeed, controversy was never far behind Hadid, even as she was widely recognized as the first female "starchitect." Her designs for the New National Stadium for Tokyo and Qatar's Al Wakrah Stadium were likened to female genitalia by critics. Hadid responded by wondering aloud if such criticism would be directed toward a man.

The Tokyo project was ultimately scrapped amid acrimony between Hadid and the Japanese government while the Qatar stadium has been marred by worker deaths.

Tokyo's New National Stadium(Credit: ZHA)

Still, her achievements are considerable. Hadid was the first ever woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, won RIBA's Stirling Prize twice, and was recently awarded RIBA's 2016 Royal Gold Medal – again the first woman to win the award in her own right. Her awards and honors are too many to list in full. She also held prestigious academic roles at several universities worldwide.

Divisive, prolific, and always compelling, Hadid pushed the envelope and refused to conform, changing the field of architecture as she went. Her death is an enormous loss to architecture and design, but her legacy is assured.

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