The Genius of Zaha Hadid

A Venice retrospective celebrates the life and work of the illustrious architect Zaha Hadid. Come along with us as we take look inside.

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The Venice Architecture Biennale is known for showing the most exciting projects from the world's best architects, but this year the biannual event will also honor a titan in the field who was recently lost: Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-British architect who suddenly passed away in March at the age of 65. The impromptu retrospective is being held at the 16th-century Palazzo Franchetti and will span Hadid's celebrated career, showcasing her paintings, as well as 3-D printed models, photographs, and films.

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Featuring early designs for projects both completed and unrealized, the exhibition is a revealing display of Hadid's avant-garde practice. Her almost abstract paintings are representative of the fragmented and layered style for which she's become so well-known. This is even evident in the designs that were never executed, including her reimagining of London's Trafalgar Square (1985) and Hong Kong's Peak Club (1982–1983).

Plans for The Peak, a gravity-defying leisure club in Hong Kong (1982–3). © Zaha Hadid Architects

"My paintings really evolved… because I thought the architectural drawings required a much greater degree of distortion and fragmentation," Hadid once wrote of the research method at her practice, Zaha Hadid Architects. This meticulously creative planning strategy, seen through the works on view, is what led to some of Hadid's greatest masterpieces. 

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In addition to the paintings, the exhibition also highlights Hadid's jewelry, furniture, and career milestones including her first completed project, the Vitra fire station (1990-93) in Weil am Rhein, Germany, and the project that boosted her 2004 Pritzker Architecture Prize win, the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (1997-2003).

The retrospective is an important marker of Hadid's dynamism—it's a celebration of the experimentation it takes to be creatively successful. As Hadid once so aptly put it: "It might take ten years for a 2-D sketch to evolve into a workable space, and then into a realized building. But these are the journeys that I think are very exciting, as they are unpredictable."  

A plan to redevelop the old harbor street Hafenstrasse in Hamburg, Germany (1989). © Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid will be on view at the Palazzo Franchetti in Venice through November 27. For information on how to visit, see palazzofranchetti.it.

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