The Visions and Voices hosted by the University of Southern California aim to bring a multidisciplinary and innovative strategy to engage the students and faculties of USC. An evening was Zaha Hadid was opened by an introduction session by Qingyun Ma, Dean USC School of Architecture followed by David Gerber D.Des, Assistant professor of architecture, USC, highlighting the accolades of the exemplar visionary, Zaha Hadid. 

An internationally celebrated Irani-British architect, Zaha Hadid, well known for bringing her wildly imaginative concepts to life. She was a visionary figure and left a legacy for the younger generation of architects. Zaha Hadid was the youngest recipient and the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2004. 

Her contribution in the field of architecture was highly acknowledged and was also named by Time under the “100 Most Influential People in the World,” one of Forbes’s World’s Most Powerful Women,” a UNESCO Artist for Peace, a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the Republic of France and was given the title of a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

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Zaha Hadid ©

The session of Visions and Voices was continued by a lecture given by the architect on her works. She chronologically arranged the entire lecture into segments – the work is done in the first decade of her career focused more on fluidity and fragmentation; the second decade dedicated to layering; the third to clustering different functionality into one. 

Hadid’s thorough interest in the interface between design, scene, and topography, and her mission for perplexing, liquid space, are exemplified in striking, inventive ventures like the MAXXI Museum in Rome, the London Aquatics Center for the 2012 Olympic Games, and Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku. Prior structures, for example, the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati and the Guangzhou Opera House in China have been hailed as an architectural marvel that changes our thoughts of things to come with new spatial ideas and dynamic, visionary structures. 

Zaha Hadid Architects’ work of the previous 30 years has been the subject of widely praised presentations at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; London’s Design Museum; the Palazzo Della Ragione in Padua, Italy; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and the Danish Architecture Center.

First Decade: Fluidity and Fragmentation

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Zaha Hadid Academic Drawings ©
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Zaha Hadid Dwg on Fragmentation ©

Referring to her initial academic projects in the Visions and Voices based on and around her life in London, Zaha Hadid hinted at the importance of understanding the landscape of the place before the design process. She experimented with the shell structure that was an ideal concept and suggested a variation from the regular grids that are most common in architecture. The reflection of the changing curvature of the landscape can be identified in Zaha Hadid’s drawings that later translated into projects. She focused more on creating landmasses that seamlessly blend with the landscape.

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Zaha Hadid Capturing Views of London ©
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Initial Projects ©

Second Decade: Layering

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Zaha Hadid on Layering ©

The late 80s brought about the integration of buildings having different functionalities that required different zoning strategies. Zaha Hadid worked on verticality by layering strata one on top of the other, letting the emergence of the concept of a hill.

Her basic idea of fluidity remained intact while implementing carving and layering in her designs. While talking about some of her accolades, she highlighted the importance of seamlessly linking the different building domains to the urban directory of the city.

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University of Economics and Business, Vienna ©

Third Decade: Clustering

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Heydar Aliyev Center, Baku ©

The design philosophy of Zaha Hadid defines the term clustering, as an idea that includes spatially arranging and organizing the differently functioning spaces in a building. The voids, the solids, and a link between different spaces were efficient. She worked on her first commission-based project in the 1990s, based in Denmark. 

A cluster of management, as well as a production building, were merged as one implementing the idea of terracing that acted as an office base, separated by a plateau. Another great example to illustrate the idea is the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku. Three projects seamlessly converge as a single building as an extension of the landscape.

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Experimentation with forms ©

Zaha Hadid also experimented with modern materials and unconventional structure typologies like shell structures, exoskeletons, and tensile structures. She enticed the minds of young architects by putting lights on the idea of how to approach a problem with relevant solutions.

Her design philosophies capture the essence of continuity in design which is the product of progressions of thoughts that delivered the space-provoking structures. 

Her philosophy investigates the idea of floating planes and lines, folds, and ribbons; thus, light and shadow additionally discover their place along the edges of volumes, in the spaces among structures, and embedded in planar surfaces. 

A design should express social rationality and coherence with urban design and architectural design. For the young minds aspiring to be architects as amazing as Zaha Hadid, it is quite possible. What we lack is not using the greatest tool at our disposal- observation, and interpretation.

In Visions and Voices: An Evening with Zaha Hadid –
“I’m trying to discover – invent, I suppose – an architecture, and forms of urban planning, that do something of the same thing in a contemporary way. I started out trying to create buildings that would sparkle like isolated jewels; now I want them to connect, to form a new kind of landscape, to flow together with contemporary cities and the lives of their peoples.”

– Zaha Hadid



Dania Irshad, a prefinal year student, pursuing B.Arch from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, focuses her intent as an architect with a social conscience who not only wishes to design only for the users for also in consideration of the environment. She is a voracious reader as well has her passion in writing.

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