Controversial architect says only the Scots truly appreciate her fresh angle on design
A CONTROVERSIAL architect nominated for this year's Stirling Prize has chosen to work in Scotland as her talents have not been recognised elsewhere in Britain.
Zaha Hadid, a Baghdad-born architect who came to the UK in the early 1970s, remains largely unknown in her adopted home despite designing some of the most innovative structures in Europe.
She has never had a design completed in Britain, but two of her designs are about to come to fruition in Scotland. In Kirkcaldy, her design for Scotland's latest Maggie's Centre for cancer sufferers is almost complete, while work is under way on her replacement for the Glasgow Transport Museum.
Hadid was nominated for the Stirling Prize for her Phaeno Science Centre in Wolfsburg, Germany. The award was won by the Richard Rogers Partnership for the stunning new terminal at Madrid's Barajas Airport. Speaking about her nomination, she noted Scotland was the only part of Britain where her work had found acceptance.
As the proponent of Deconstructivism - which sees building design in terms of bits and pieces, rendering structures in apparent unrelated, disharmonious abstract forms - Hadid's controversial work will soon become familiar to Scots.
Her rise to pre-eminence in the architectural world has not been an easy one. Born in Baghdad in 1950, she grew up in a very different Iraq from the one we know today. It was a liberal, secular, West-leaning nation with a flourishing economy, where Hadid, the daughter of a leader of the Iraqi Progressive Democratic Parties, was given every encouragement to achieve her ambitions.
After attending convent school in Baghdad and Switzerland, and gaining a degree in mathematics at the American University in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, she enrolled at the Architectural Association in London in 1972, where she was described by her tutor as "a planet in her own inimitable orbit". Since then, she has been feted as one of architecture's most cutting-edge figures, defining a new approach to design, with a resistance to using right angles in her work.
Her designs have long suffered from the perception of being incredible but impractical, described by one critic as "brilliant, but unbuildable". Indeed, even where her designs have made it off the drawing board, resistance to Hadid's designs has been robust.
According to Riccardo Marini, city design leader for Edinburgh city council, her work invited strong responses: "It's not everybody's cup of tea," he said. "To me, it is as extreme as a cathedral in a medieval city. It's maybe something we need: these singular, very powerful architectural statements.
"She's now built quite a few things, and I think there's a recognition now that there is a talent and a skill there."
However, in 1994, her competition-winning design for the Cardiff Bay Opera House was abandoned by the Millennium Commission after opposition from local lobbyists. Also, a submission to create a new housing estate in the East End of Glasgow during the 1990s was rejected, though Mr Marini, who had viewed the plans, described them as "fantastic".
He said: "I spent some time reading her drawings, and you got distracted by the crazy, wavy geometry, but beneath there was a well-resolved housing scheme.
"It would have been a fantastic thing, but I don't think Glasgow was ready for it. People were quite scared of what was perceived as wacky architecture."
And here are two she prepared earlier ...
MAGGIE'S Fife in Kirkcaldy is the first of two designs by Zaha Hadid to be built in Scotland and the first permanent structure to be built in Britain, by the architect.
Close to completion, the cancer charity building sits opposite the oncology centre at the Victoria Hospital.
Ms Hadid said: "Maggie's Fife will inspire, create a sense of worth and esteem and encourage growth and recovery, whilst [containing] a variety of spaces needed by staff and visitors."
ZAHA Hadid's ultra-modern design for the Glasgow Museum of Transport will replace the existing structure which has housed the collection since 1964 at Kelvin Hall.
Backers say the 50 million museum, which will sit on the banks of the Clyde, will bring a new tourist attraction to the area, and is intended as a focal point in Glasgow Harbour's regeneration.
Glasgow City Council is financing the project. The lottery grant ensures that a striking metallic design will follow the architect's original vision.
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