When I first meet Zaha Hadid she’s as tight-lipped as a closed door. This is a woman who doesn’t do idle chit chat. Why would you when you’re the world’s most famous female architect?
Asked if people needed to be a little afraid of her, the brusque answer is “No,” before shooting me a case-closed expression. “I think people are always intimidated by something. I don’t do things that scare people off.”
“Full of lies,” is her response, when I refer to one article in which she demanded flight crew swap her plane, while taxiing on a runway.
Forty minutes later, Hadid has softened somewhat, opening the door on a remarkable life that began in 1950s Baghdad, before smashing through the “boy’s club” of international architecture, to become one of the most celebrated — and divisive — designers on the planet.
Perhaps the urban legends about her formidable demeanor are part of the mystique that has built up around the 63-year-old Iraqi-born Briton, who today boasts over 400 staff and 950 projects in 44 countries — including plans for Japan’s 2020 Olympic Stadium and the recently opened Serpentine Sackler gallery in London’s Hyde Park.
Dozens of models of Hadid’s distinctive white, sweeping, space-age designs sit on undulating plinths in her gallery in east London’s fashionable Clerkenwell.
The installation is called “City of Towers,” and sitting a little behind this mini metropolis is the creator herself, dressed in a black cloak at a long table of rippling glass.
Her latest project is for German superyacht builders Blohm+Voss — the same company behind billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich’s “Eclipse,” the second-largest private yacht in the world.
On the wall behind her, a plasma screen flashes computer-generated images of her six boats, their gleaming exoskeleton frames seamlessly weaving together each luxurious level. They range from a 128-meter “master prototype” to a 90-meter version called “Jazz.
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