Zaha Hadid resisted typecasting, refused to repeat herself: Bidisha Sinha

On the late architect’s 70th birth anniversary, the senior associate at ZHA shares how Hadid went against the norm and her creativity was unbound by existing typologies.

by Bidisha Sinha Published on : Oct 30, 2020

When I was asked to write this commemorative piece and reflect back on the experience of the last four years, working and building on Zaha Hadid’s legacy without her at the helm, it was not easy to find the words.

The year 2020 has been strange and surreal with a pandemic hyper-accelerating us communally into a virtual realm while leaving us as individuals to recreate a slice of our famously ‘dynamic work environment’ within the confines of our homes. As a collective we are learning new ways to realise our ambitions. The establishment of exclusive domains has been made redundant in favour of fluid de-centralised organisation. 

  • Evelyn Grace Academy, Grace Middle School Entrance Terrace, London, UK (2010) | Bidisha Sinha | Zaha Hadid birthday tribute | STIRworld
    Evelyn Grace Academy, Grace Middle School Entrance Terrace, London, UK (2010) Image: Luke Hayes
  • Evelyn Grace Academy, Running track from the Shakespeare Road Entrance, London, UK (2010)   | Bidisha Sinha | Zaha Hadid birthday tribute | STIRworld
    Evelyn Grace Academy, Running track from the Shakespeare Road Entrance, London, UK (2010) Image: Luke Hayes
  • Evelyn Grace Academy, Children in Science Laboratory, London, UK (2010)   | Bidisha Sinha | Zaha Hadid birthday tribute | STIRworld
    Evelyn Grace Academy, Children in Science Laboratory, London, UK (2010) Image: Luke Hayes

My personal experience has taught me that architecture might create a sense of place, but this would mean nothing if it does not serve the numerous social contracts that we try and abide by. These in themselves are constantly evolving, requiring a sustained fascination for creating design, which enriches this experience. We have started seeing briefs that ask for more radical thinking to frame the changing work culture and social habits.

In this post-pandemic world, at Zaha Hadid Architects, together we continue to expand the notion of architecture as always. A few weeks back I had one of our consultants comment - after a grueling early morning video conference - on one of our recent project announcements. His words, “Amazing. It seems the firm didn’t lose any momentum. Must be a strong team”.  

It is true. Through it all at Zaha Hadid Architects we have persevered and continued to deliver beyond expectations. I think that is down to the will to ‘see-it-through’, which has been ingrained in us from our years of working with Zaha. So, yes, she is not here physically but four years down the line that spirit still continues to dominate.

  • Concept design of Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, London, UK (2016) | Bidisha Sinha | Zaha Hadid birthday tribute | STIRworld
    Concept design of Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, London, UK (2016) Image: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Concept design of Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, London, UK (2016) | Bidisha Sinha | Zaha Hadid birthday tribute | STIRworld
    Concept design of Mathematics: The Winton Gallery, London, UK (2016) Image: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Bold and unapologetic, she spent a lifetime setting up a progressive agenda for architecture and design. She always encouraged us to go against the normative. Working with Zaha ensured our need to question the obvious and pre-established cultures that we operate within.

  • Visual presentation of the entrance foyer of 2 Murray Road, UK (Ongoing)  | Bidisha Sinha | Zaha Hadid birthday tribute | STIRworld
    Visual presentation of the entrance foyer of 2 Murray Road, UK (ongoing) Image: Render by PixelFlakes, Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Render of the tower designed with multiple green spaces in the busy city centre of Hong Kong, China (ongoing) | Bidisha Sinha | Zaha Hadid birthday tribute | STIRworld
    Render of the tower designed with multiple green spaces in the busy city centre of Hong Kong, China (ongoing) Image: Render by Arqui9, Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid Architects’ style evolved over the years from angular to softer fluid expressions, largely driven by Zaha’s own refusal to accept that one must repeat oneself or dip into an existing repertoire of design in order to establish an identifiable signature.

Zaha Hadid forever resisted typecasting in all forms, whether by gender or as an architect. She allowed us to be unbound to typologies. She made the brush mightier than words. – Bidisha Sinha
The drawing for the proposal of the Peak Leisure Club for a competition in 1983 | Bidisha Sinha | Zaha Hadid birthday tribute | STIRworld
The drawing for the proposal of the Peak Leisure Club for a competition in 1983 Image: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Foundation

Her norm defying sketches were a trigger to architectural ambition becoming reality. Complemented by Zaha Hadid Architects’ evolving research in computational design through advanced software, the ability to conceive and realise architecture beyond the grasp of convention has been a transformative journey for us as a collective, laying the foundations for an easy adaptation to the socio-topographical shift in design paradigms of today. 

She said once, “I believe in the idea of the future”.

Perhaps that is the future we now operate within and it is for us to define our new boundaries as we keep moving forward.

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