Zaha Hadid Architects after Zaha Hadid

January 1, 2018

On March 31, 2016 Zaha Hadid died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Miami. Awarded the highest architectural prizes and even ennobled by Queen Elizabeth, she was without a doubt one of the most important and colorful architectural figures of our time. However, Zaha Hadid was not only an extraordinary architect, but also a successful entrepreneur. Her office, which was founded in 1980 with only a handful of employees, had more than 400 employees at the time of her death. In addition to the London branch, there were other offices in New York, Beijing, Hong Kong, Dubai and Mexico City. But how is the company a year after the loss of its founder?


Port House in Antwerpen

© Hufton + Crow; Port House in Antwerpen

When Zaha Hadid died, Zaha Hadid Architects was involved in 36 projects. 24 of them were already in the construction phase. The Salerno Maritime Terminal, the Port House in Antwerp and the interior design of the Mathematics Gallery of the Science Museum in London are now finished. There were also awards as usual, such as the Architizer A+Award for the Salerno Maritime Terminal. Other works are nearing completion, such as 520 West 28th in New York or the Nanjing International Youth Cultural Center. In addition, new milestones are always attracting the attention of the media, such as the recent completion of the 20th story of Leeza Soho.


New projects

The office had and still has a lot of work to do that Zaha Hadid left behind. But what about new projects? The first competition that the office was able to win after losing the renowned architect was an order for a new soccer stadium for the English national league (fifth division) Forest Green Rovers. ZHA is once again entering new architectural territory here, because their draft provides for the world's first soccer stadium made of wood. Due to the extensive use of the renewable resource and the associated CO2 savings, this is also simultaneously to be the "greenest" stadium in the world.


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The stadium is part of the Forest Green Rovers Eco Park – an urban development project that will include an industrial park for green technology on more than 40 hectares next to the stadium and associated facilities. The already locally based green energy giant Ecotricity will expand in the industrial park. In addition to this major project, the design for the pavilion of the Samsung Galaxy S8, '"Unconfined," recently caused a stir at Milan Design Week. In cooperation with the technology group and digital art and design collective Universal Everything, ZHA created an immersive world of experience here, inspired by the new smartphone.


Mathematics Gallery of the Science Museums in London

© Luke Hayes; Mathematics Gallery of the Science Museums in London 


Zaha Hadid's "DNA" and her heir to the throne

Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid's former teacher, determined in an interview shortly after the death of the architect that ZHA could also survive without its founder if they operated in the model of major fashion companies, such as Alexander McQueen oder Chanel. According to this, the office would have to build on its founder's "DNA," which means figuring out how to continue to produce architecture that Hadid would have designed herself. The right successor for this task is likely at the head of the office in Patrick Schumacher. After all, he had been working together with Hadid since 1988 and had managed the company at her side since 2002.


The architect has long been considered the "brain" of ZHA, since all theoretical work on Hadid's architecture came from him. No one should be more familiar with Zaha Hadid's "DNA" than him. However, in November of last year he was already responsible for a first political crisis due to various radical liberal demands, such as the abolition of social housing and the release of London's Hyde Park for development. In addition to negative press and angry demonstrators in front of the London office, this also resulted in displeasure and dissent within the company.


Salerno Maritime Terminal

© Helene Binet; Salerno Maritime Terminal


ZHA in good hands

However, this is not the first controversy that Schumacher or the work of ZHA has triggered and so his "naivety" will be forgiven, as he himself hopes. The loss of Hadid should have brought the employees closer together, as Schumacher believes. They too have the desire to do justice to the legacy of the charismatic grande dame. For example ZHA employee Maren Klasing recently revealed in an interview with the ORF that she always wonders whether Zaha Hadid would agree with what they are doing. Judging by this attitude, the future of ZHA seems in good hands.