Speech 3 : Get To The Point — Introducing Zaha Hadid

P3: Get to the Point — Clearly state your speech goal, and make sure that every element of your speech focuses on that goal.

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Source: Wired Magazine

Introducing Zaha Hadid

Good evening fellow toastmasters!

The biggest female icon of the Architecture world passed away recently on the 31stof March. To many of the public, Dame Zaha Hadid who passed away at 65 may be an unknown figure, but to the architecture world she was an inspirational starchitect challenging this male dominated profession by being the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize and the highest honour of Architecture Gold in the world. My speech today will introduce her to you, firstly beginning with her early life and how she came to be an architect, proceeded with the development and challenges in her architecture career and finally to the legacy and controversy she left on the profession.

Hadid was born in 1950 to a wealthy family in Baghdad. She grew up at a time when Iraq’s capital was a secular, cosmopolitan and progressive city, full of new ideas and cultural experiments. This informed her childhood as one of inspirational hope to reach for the stars. She moved to London in 1972 to study at the Architectural Association, the world’s most prestigious architecture school. Since her student days she has been intensely preoccupied with changing the ideas of architecture. Through the mentoring of her tutors, it helped her develop her identity and her own distinctive style. By introducing dynamic forms to her designs, she challenged commonly accepted principals in design. During my student years in Melbourne, her projects were introduced to me by my own tutor. The Dubai Opera House was the first building that I became acquainted with. I was captivated by its flowing form, iconic presence and revolutionary aesthetic that challenges all the conventional rectangular buildings. She became a big influence to us in our studies to explore the potentials of a more organic design in our buildings and the relationship of spaces the form develops.

Hadid opened her firm in London in 1979. Soon after she started her own firm, she met a strong turning point of her career. This was the Cardiff Bay project in which she won after a yearlong competition. However, due to the male dominated culture of the time, and being a foreigner to England, the disapproval of the ministers led her to lose support from the judges. It was a devastating point for her to be discriminated, but it also put the iron into her. This journey gave her strength to find herself and strive harder in the international scene. Her firm developed their style which is concerned with presenting movement and speed to inform her design, both the way people will move through the buildings and the way it is experienced from the outside as seen in both Aliyev Centre and the Dominion Office Space. Through staying strong in her ideals and also embracing the use of advancing technology, she developed a futuristic definitive style and made her own place in the architecture world.

Hadid’s career in Architecture wasn’t without controversy. With her extreme aesthetic and design style, it constantly pushed the limits of buildability and technology in the building industry. Cost and timeline over runs plagued many of her buildings, such as her most recent design for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic stadium, which was cancelled due to public anger over its $2 billion cost. Many of her partnerships also result in strained relationships trying to reach her intense design goals.

Her stance is that buildings are around for a long time, and it is therefore worth spending more time and money to create something exceptional. Hadid was symbol of a wider conversation within the Architecture community, a debate that has raged through the decades. The main question is for the role of the architect, between serving the people in creating a conservative and functional structure or the “starchitect” who push the physical and aesthetic boundaries to create an icon of its time. To me as a designer I find there needs to be a balance between these issues, starchitects such as Hadid needs to develop a sensitivity in their process and understand the culture and context of the space. As seen so far from her work, it looks too extremely foreign to be part of the bigger picture of a city.

In conclusion, through finding herself from her roots and challenging the conventional since young, to overcoming encounters of gender and racial discrimination in her early career. She has managed to leave a legacy not only in her buildings but to also construct a new future in architecture and paving the way for a new breed of architects. Although I may not agree with her design style, Zaha Hadid was a shooting star in architecture, making her mark by embracing herself and being true to her style. Although her architecture and design may not be relevant to you, I hope that this journey can convey her life experiences to you which encompasses her confidence, bravery and perseverance.

This is a quote left by Rem Koolhaas her mentor, “She was somebody with a rare kind of courage,” “It was not constructed courage but an inevitable courage, she was just made that way. It was an almost physical thing.”


I felt that in her passing, there developed much discourse about who Zaha Hadid was and how she impacted the Architectural industry, and I used this Toastmasters speech as a catalyst to dive into this discussion. As an Architectural student, we have all been through our “Zaha Hadid stage”. We get seduced by the sinuous curves and pristine futuristic forms of her work and are inspired at how buildings can flow in space and become an artform in itself. Further learning about her career from peer reviews and architectural critics for this speech, it has shown me why she has become such an iconic starchitect of our times. However, through all this, I do maintain my current stance that it is not a design philosophy that resonates with me. I feel that her architecture is in a sense an opposition to my beliefs of what Architecture should do. Most of her work is alienating, it alienates the context it sits in and alienates how people use the space. There is also a lack of variety in materiality and a sense of phenomenological experience within the space. Architecture to me is about the conversations it has with the context and culture that surrounds it, and is about the narratives of the people who inhabit it. And I feel that Zaha Hadid puts these factors as a subplot in her greater design story.

Originally published at qpskpii.wordpress.com on March 8, 2017.

Written by

Programme Manager @ Padang & Co | Architectural Designer | Startups, Participatory Design and Social Enterprise sectors https://www.linkedin.com/in/llqingping/

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