Zaha is simply repulsive


The work coming out of Zaha Hadid Architects is typically brilliant.  The recent designs for MAXXI and the Guangzhou Opera House were particularly innovative and beautiful. However in interviews on The Charlie Rose Show and more recently in Abitare's exposé at Milan Polytech... Ms. Hadid comes across as an abhorrently repulsive woman.   She basks in the rockstar like adulation of students, offering bland assessments of her design process and sneering at questions she deems beneath her.  It's actually Patrick Schumacher that engages interviewers and audiences alike in idea-based discussions.  It is becoming clearer that he is the intellectual force driving much of the work.  Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of talented, intellectually sophisticated women running successful design practices... I just can't bear to listen to Ms. Hadid gloat.
Does anyone else share this view?

Apr 15, 11 1:07 am


By criticizing Zaha, you clearly show complete lack of respect for your mother.

Or perhaps you hate Iranian people? In any case, this is going on your permanent record.

Apr 15, 11 1:53 am  · 

what does not knowing her nationality mean, then?

Apr 15, 11 2:17 am  · 

i have no opinion on her personality, but she's definitely one hot babe

Apr 15, 11 2:45 am  · 

She's definitely a strong personality.  Someone  on the boards here once said her "sheer will to power" is attractive, whether you like her work or not.

I think it's really an interesting question whether one can achieve exceptionally high levels of success - in any field - without being somewhat of (said in an affectionate way) an asshole.  A better term than asshole maybe is a charismatic.  What seems to me is that some people just ARE charismatic, and they either use it to achieve success or not, and some people start achieving some success and thus decide they need to become more charismatic.  But I feel like most can tell the difference.

Zaha is clearly, clearly a true charismatic.  It's hard to explain how phenomenal it has been to see her go from making completely, utterly idiosyncratic architectural paintings - stuff no one had ever imagined let alone seen before - in the 80s to the level of success she's achieved now.

Apr 15, 11 8:30 am  · 

She is Iraqi, I believe.

Apr 15, 11 8:37 am  · 

I hear she hires students out of the AA for a whopping 32K. This after you get your five year US degree and another two years there. Sounds like an awesome return on that not so inexpensive, borderline useless education.

You can almost hear it now, some poor bloke is about to come on here and ask if  "after 7 years of school , is 32K is enough?"

Apr 15, 11 8:48 am  · 

i agree with donna's intelligent statement even though i don't have the time at the moment to address this with such depth myself.  i do wonder though, do you feel the same way about lebbeus woods, peter eisenman, daniel libeskind, richard meier, etc., all of whom share many of the traits you descrbe?
it seems to me that these traits are usually respected, or at the very least tolerated, in men.
even though i don't think it's what the original poster meant directly, there's always a faint whiff of sexism in these kinds of criticisms...

Apr 15, 11 8:52 am  · 

@burningman: many ppl get hired on less than 32K at ZHA

Apr 15, 11 8:55 am  · 

come on guys--not every thread has to go the 'school is expensive--> jobs don't pay --> debt will kill you' route.

Apr 15, 11 8:56 am  · 

School - expensive!
Stupid people - take shitty paying jobs in expensive cities.
Debt - sucks forever.

Arch education - artsy!
<32K - are you freakin serious?

Lets make every thread about how great an Ivy league architecture degree is instead.

Apr 15, 11 9:03 am  · 

She's a powerhouse without question.  Donna has it right.  Love her or hate her, you have to respect what she's accomplished.

I think this is true of all the stararchitect's.  Their will and stamina is damn impressive, even if many had more luxurious paths than most of us could ever have hoped for.

When I had her (for a class), she was shopping most of the time.  Still, though, the energy that the class had was exceptional.

Nice to have humble idols, but I think there is some truth to the "asshole".  I recall Mayne saying that in order to get to where he was he needed a big ego, which, smiling, he said he had by the time he was 14.  I think that says a lot.

Apr 15, 11 9:23 am  · 

She is IRAQI not Iranian. I dated an Iraqi woman once upon a time (obviously far more attractive than Zaha) and she was just as mean-spirited and nasty.

Apr 15, 11 11:42 am  · 

I still love the work of Zaha.

Apr 15, 11 11:44 am  · 
vado retro

Through years of dedication and sacrifice Ms. Hadid has achieved the status of a brand. In the industry and to laymen she is an iconic figure and people from all walks of life make pilgrimages to her buildings to have their pictures taken for later social media wall and profile picture posting. Since Ms. Hadid has reached this status she has surrounded her self with the best and brightest in the industry. She is the brand and the conceptual driver and she has the right people in place to realize her intent.

Apr 15, 11 11:48 am  · 

I'm not sure, the picture above or below...which is more repulsive?

Apr 15, 11 12:08 pm  · 

Alot of starchitects are repulsive in their personal mannerisms.  The few I've heard good things about are Rogers, Piano and Herzog and De Meuron (sic?), the rest I've heard are pretty much ego manics to the point of being extremely difficult to work for and with.

I think Zaha gets a special nod as the Ego Queen because of the sheer force of her personality and the fact that she's a total sell out.  She's given up on alot of the ideas that made her early work great, and all the new stuff is really just pumping out concepts based in "parametric design" that obviously come from alot of the students she berates so much in crits.  Her explantions of her early work were always quite eloquent.  The Peaks, BMW, MAXXI, Vitra Fire, were all projects that she clearly cared about and formed strong design ideas around.  These days its all about pumping grasshopper to get some pretty glass dildo to sell to a developer so she can make mad bank.

Desipite all this, I still think she's a great architect.  I would simply never work for her.... ever. 

Apr 15, 11 12:31 pm  · 

Patrick Shumacher is a glorified digital monkey. The work coming out of Hadid & Co. is extremely formalist and graphics-driven (not that its a bad thing, per se), but that comes from years and years of Hadid's experimentation with that genre. And that is why she deserves the praise and adulation that she gets.

Apr 15, 11 2:57 pm  · 

Perhaps a better question is if Zaha's work is relevant any more. Digital castles in the desert had a lot more appeal prior to the global downturn. Her works hasn't really accounted for the new found modesty in construction budgets most of us face now.

They are still pumping out proposals like noone else. They just don't seem terribly cutting edge anymore. Zaha is so '80's hair metal now.

Apr 15, 11 3:12 pm  · 
vado retro

When you see her on Dancing With The Stars you will have your answer, Rusty.

Apr 15, 11 3:49 pm  · 

Starting salaries at ZHA were abouts 23-25k GBP in the boom (no idea if they have decreased with the crisis)... translate that in USD... u r at 38k at current exchange... forget about any salary increase if you don't move quick into the office corporate ladder.

Apr 15, 11 3:58 pm  · 
Token AE


Apr 16, 11 7:35 am  · 
Token AE

interesting, humorous, and highly unofficial reports of working for her:

Apr 16, 11 7:38 am  · 

I somehow think it is a little too easy to dismiss Zaha and use words like "abhorrently repulsive" (which, from where I'm standing, seem to lack idea-based critique also). She was part of an intellectual and aesthetic vanguard way before Patrick Schumacher and parametric modeling came along. If she gloats and basks in student and young architect and glossy magazine adulation it's because we readily (and foolishly, sometimes) give that to her. Where's your idea-based critique of the construction of architectural celebrity?

Apr 16, 11 9:44 am  · 
Where's your idea-based critique of the construction of architectural celebrity?

Fantastic question, kayg.  

Apr 16, 11 11:04 am  · 
snook_dude ever get a look at Mies...and talk about arrogant!  Thinking back to when I heard Ezaria Stoller  talk about a meeting with him regarding taking photographs of the Seagrams Building.  The daughter of the Segrams Corporation who brought Mies to the Table for the project wanted it photographed once it was complete. So she brought the two together in New York where she left them in a conference room to decide about photos.  She left the room. Mies sucked away on his cigar as Ezaria sat in silence. She returned and ask if they had any thoughts.  Mies says, "He will take many photos and I will like few if none."

Apr 16, 11 11:39 am  · 

Apr 16, 11 12:58 pm  · 

i do wonder why, if archinect has a 'no name-calling' policy, why a thread like this is permissible? 

Apr 16, 11 1:12 pm  · 

@elinor: you cant be serious, or maybe you are then it's just sad

Apr 16, 11 3:31 pm  · 

when was there a 'no name-calling' policy implemented?  We've been calling everyone all kinds of names for well over a decade now!  I mean, where would the fun be if we can't point fingers, snicker, laugh and just plain act like little kids!  :-)

Apr 16, 11 3:35 pm  · 

adjective /riˈpəlsiv/

  1. Arousing intense distaste or disgust
    • - a repulsive smell

  2. Lacking friendliness or sympathy
  3. Of or relating to repulsion between physical objects
I think the term repulsive is incorrect. Maybe hideous is a better definition.


adjective /ˈhidēəs/

  1. Ugly or disgusting to look at
    • - his smile made him look more hideous than ever

  2. Extremely unpleasant
    • - the whole hideous story

Apr 16, 11 3:40 pm  · 
job job

To the people of Archinect Forum

Survey says:

Bjarke - BIG guy with simple ideas = aces

Steven Holl - US citizen, champion of figuration = pritzker prize stolen

Francois Roche - Gallic provocateur = vilain cafard

Zaha - foreign woman excelling at male profession = bruha

don't deny it - I didn't fabricate a single one of these views.

Apr 16, 11 5:37 pm  · 

i was being sarcastic---does no one remember the banned asymptote thread? 

Apr 16, 11 8:31 pm  · 

elinor, asymptote thread never happened. It was just a dream you had.

Apr 16, 11 9:54 pm  · 

oh yeah, one crappy dream....:)

Apr 16, 11 9:56 pm  · 

i find her work pretentious and naive, her smile quite disgusting, and her attitude quite boring. that she is still even talked about amazes me. the only influence she ever had in the profession was her representational techniques, which have also fallen short in recent years. gross.

Apr 17, 11 1:34 am  · 

I'm actually a big critic of a lot of her work - for me the detailing falls way short of conception - but her Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati is, IMO, a near perfect building, in part because the detailing isn't at all trying to be perfect.  It could be accused of being pretentious, maybe, but definitely not naive.

Apr 17, 11 9:58 am  · 
job job

ok guys, easy on the crazy-juice.

Can you tell me that Rem, Frank, Danny are the most laid-back and most handsome, but they do not receive this level of weirdness. Why is that? 

Apr 17, 11 6:09 pm  · 

What is it about Zaha that consistently causes such strong reactions? I didn't see the interview, but I don't get the strength of reaction. HItler was/is repulsive. 

Apr 17, 11 8:36 pm  · 

This whole thread is interesting - I have a good friend that worked for Zaha for a while and has nothing but great things to say about her.

Apr 17, 11 8:55 pm  · 

The OP is not talking about her looks, it's about her work and attitude.

Apr 18, 11 10:33 am  · 

isn't this what alot of want(ed) - rock star lifestyle, she struggled for many years and now IS the establishment. it's no different than ppl turning off of a band because they became to popular.

The way i look at ZH is that she DID make it and that we all know isn't something to treat lightly. You don't have to be a fan of her work to admire what she did. As to her personality, i also have a good friend that worked there for many years and only recently left - she didn't back up the horror stories. ZH's got an intense personality - for sure, but which founder of a well known office doesn't?


Apr 18, 11 10:49 am  · 

the zaha critics should either put up or shut up:

- if you find zaha unattractive, post a pic of yourself.
- if you find her work horrible, post your built work.

Apr 18, 11 11:13 am  · 
chatter of clouds


i've always thought that the distinctive schumacher strain knitting itself into her work was always an interesting topic that, to my knowledge (which is lacking because i havent given a crap about architecture and related readings for some time now) , has never been properly analyzed...or perhaps even seen as worth of analyzing.

or, perhaps more pithily, the reason for the silent enrollment of such a distictively vocal(by vocal, i include textual)/articulate character as schumacher within an office of the rather vocally unoriginal, albeit extra-ordinarily designerly original character that is zaha hadid..simply is that its never been voiced from within the office. again, to my sorely lacking knowlege, i never read or heard of zaha's explanation of why she has incorporated that parametric/digital as design method and material. anyway, where it is clear to discern the zaha hadid hand at work within the parametric clothing, one can still see that distinctive formal elegance of her work, these suspended gestures of esoteric elegance. but i also suspect that at times, she uses her famliar vocabulary, or at least her distictive habitual twitches of hand, in an "oramental" way that is not elegantly suprising as her best work is. like this abu dhabi bridge here. on the other other hand, since truth is more kali than human, there is that aforementioned parametric mind that isn't engenders awkward bends and growths that is barely contained within the final sketch she must draw over it to bring it back to some zaha-sense.

Apr 18, 11 11:27 am  · 

sectionalhealing -- lol -- I could care less about Zaha one way or the other. But it seems to me the whole point of being a critic (in any genre, whether film, literature, painting, architecture, whatever) is that you can put forth a forceful opinion about the quality of what you're reviewing without really having to have any qualifications or credentials whatsoever. This is especially true on the internet. Sad, isn't it?

Apr 18, 11 12:04 pm  · 

"I dated an Iraqi woman once upon a time (obviously far more attractive than Zaha) and she was just as mean-spirited and nasty." -Med

Wow...why is this at all relevant? I can just imagine the response from others had this comment been made about a black woman you, once upon a time, dated. 

Apr 19, 11 1:49 pm  · 

"there is that aforementioned parametric mind that isn't engenders awkward bends and growths that is barely contained within the final sketch she must draw over it to bring it back to some zaha-sense." -tammuz


​that happens often in architectural legacy type of practices, read- famous architects' offices. 

Apr 19, 11 2:04 pm  · 

Isn't she lovely...Isn't she wonderful

Apr 19, 11 10:12 pm  · 

so i do like zaha's work and find it inspired and interesting. her previous projects are dynamic and really illustrate a talent and understanding of space.....i am a HUGE fan of zaha...

but i agree with apurimac -- seems like she's checked out of the involvement of some of the more recent work....

having seen her lecture, and having watched the charlie rose segment previously - there is a difference between being an asshole [whether you are a woman or a man] and acting like a prima donna. admit it...we all fall somewhere in the asshole range b/c we are passionate about what we do[obviously some aren't and are probably nicer people for it]

the same behavior she has demonstrated in what i have seen and personally experienced is pretty ridiculous and i agree with the first post about her attitude-- in her lecture she seemed disaffected and disinterested of even her own work, and when asked questions from the audience at the lecture i attended she barely answered them with more than a sentence, and when she did answer the question she had to have patrick schumacher stand up in the audience and turn around to the audience and answer it directly b/c either she didn't know or she didn't want to answer the question herself...about her own work.

i respect her work. i like her work...but i COMPLETELY believe that it has NOTHING to do with the fact that she is a woman and displays this's ODD to me that an architect like zaha would be so evasive about speaking about projects that they have done and have won awards. either she knows the answer and is acting like a diva -- and many male architects have done the same -- or patrick really is the one that is driving the bus in that office now...

i honestly don't care about evaluating her as a person or her attitude....she's very talented. let her be an asshole, but yes the prima donna act is pretty hilarious, completely laughable...i'm more interested in the projects. i do wish she would discuss her work in a more meaningful way the way she used to.

Apr 19, 11 11:55 pm  · 

Nice post, architorture.  I've never seen Zaha lecture, but I saw Gehry in the early 90s and he had an identical attitude towards talking about his work, minus the Schumacher character.  


At one point he flat out said "I'd much rather be in my studio right now than talking to you people about what I do".  Which I can respect very much as a sentiment, but to say it out loud to all the guests while standing in the "home" (museum) of the host who is paying you to be there?  Rude.  Super rude and prima donna out the wazoo!

Apr 20, 11 8:55 am  · 

Architorture - just out of curiosity how big was the crowd.  This may be a stretch but perhaps she's doesn't feel comfortable speaks to large numbers of people.  It can happen.  Bravado oftentimes masks one's own insecurities.  But what do I really know anyway?


In any case I agree with you, I think she does have a great talent and understanding of space.  The CAC in Cincinnati is a perfect example.  I may not have a great understanding of the detailing, but the flow through the space is extraordinary IMO.  Despite the use of heavy (physically and mentally) materials, I feel almost as if I float through the building everytime I walk through it.  It is strong in design yet is does not detract from its purpose, displaying modern art.  

Apr 20, 11 1:23 pm  · 

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