The Royal Institute of British Architects have announced that the globally-renowned architect Dame Zaha Hadid, who designed the new Eleftheria Square in Nicosia among many global projects, will receive the 2016 Royal Gold Medal, the first woman to be awarded the prestigious honour in her own right, the Nicosia Municipality announced on Friday.
Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by the Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.
Awarded since 1848, past Royal Gold Medallists include Frank Gehry (2000), Norman Foster (1983), Frank Lloyd Wright (1941) and Sir George Gilbert Scott (1859).
RIBA President and chair of the selection committee, Jane Duncan, said: “Zaha Hadid is a formidable and globally-influential force in architecture. Highly experimental, rigorous and exacting, her work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, is quite rightly revered and desired by brands and people all around the world. I am delighted Zaha will be awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 2016 and can’t wait to see what she and her practice will do next.”
Speaking of the announcement Hadid said: “I am very proud to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal, in particular, to be the first woman to receive the honour in her own right. We now see more established female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress.”
Born in Baghdad in 1950, Hadid started her architectural journey in 1972 studying at the progressive Architectural Association in London. She joined her former professors, Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis, at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, where she became a partner in 1977. By 1979 she had established her own practice in London – Zaha Hadid Architects – garnering a reputation across the world for her trail-blazing theoretical works including The Peak in Hong Kong (1983), the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994).
Hadid’s first major built commission, one that catapulted her rise, was the Vitra Fire Station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany (1993); subsequent notable projects including the MAXXI: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (2009), the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011) and the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku (2013).
In 2004 Zaha Hadid became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. She has twice won the UK’s most prestigious architecture award, the RIBA Stirling Prize: in 2010 for the MAXXI Museum in Rome, a building for the staging of 21st Century art.
Hadid’s other awards include the Republic of France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Japan’s Praemium Imperiale. In 2012 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and is also an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture.