CULTURE

Top architect to lecture in Athens

At the age of 55, Zaha Hadid is one of the few internationally acclaimed architects who has had to fight against a variety of stereotypes: The sexism prevailing in the international architecture market as well as her national identity (she was born in Baghdad) were only two of the barriers she had to face in a struggle that started back in the ’80s. Until relatively recently, Hadid’s projects earned recognition but were not very commercial. Her architecture, reversive regarding the nature and the functions of the building itself, has a strong philosophical background, mostly concerning space and its relationship to people. Her work induces powerful feelings. London-based Hadid will give a lecture at the Athens Concert Hall on Thursday; the event is expected to be very crowded, as was also the case with architect Rem Koolhaas’s lecture, who was once Hadid’s teacher, despite little age difference. Hadid received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 (the highest award in architecture) for her entire body of work, as well as having earned the Mies van der Rohe award for one of her European works, a new station and parking lot in Strasbourg. Hadid’s temperamental work does not fall into any category. She comes from Baghdad’s bourgeois class which had friendly ties with the West. Her father studied at the London School of Economics during the 1930s and Hadid herself began her studies at Beirut’s American College before leaving for Britain. Her passion with the expression of space has resulted in an architectural concept closer to mathematics than to history. Greatly distanced from the narcissistic architecture of Frank Gehry (Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum) or Daniel Liebeskind’s minimalism (Berlin’s Jewish Museum), Hadid’s buildings leave deep impressions without being monumental. A small yet highly indicative work of hers is the Bergisel ski jump in Innsbruck. Hadid proves extremely skilled at venues for mass gatherings, such as transport hubs. She gives priority to people and glorifies speed and the struggle of activity in commerce and communications. Hadid’s contemporary fusion takes one back to the very first urban gatherings and exchanges. The national element, absent from her work, can be found in her philosophical, people-centered quests, where concept overpowers matter. Her self-confidence has elevated her to a self-reliant presence. Refraining from emotional populism, Zaha Hadid tries to avoid promoting her Iraqi nationality, although everyone else tends to point it out. The lecture will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Athens Concert Hall’s Alexandra Triandi Hall.