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On working in a man’s world and the war in Iraq

The vast majority of the audience at your lecture were very young people. It is very different from what it was like a few years ago. It’s a sign of the times. Perhaps it’s because they want to be inspired by something different and they think I represent something like that, a different approach. But I can’t speak on their behalf. You are in charge of a lot of men at your office. What is it like dealing with so many men on a professional level? It involves lots of difficulties, but I don’t think it has to do with men and women. Besides, people aren’t used to seeing women as leaders in any field. The good thing is that they can’t see me as a stereotype, because there are no models to base it on. Some are frightened of you, others get angry easily, everyone behaves differently. But things are changing. The climate is very different from when I started out; it’s a completely different story. A new idea When you design a new building, what is the most important factor for you? A new idea; to bring something new and fresh to the design I have in front of me. All our efforts and all our energy go into creating suitable conditions that will enrich or even improve the human experience. The idea that we must integrate a body into a specific space is rather old-fashioned. Now we can have many new and different spaces. During the lecture we saw your designs for the London Swimming Center. I assume you support the city’s bid for the 2012 Games. Yes, I do. I think it will be good for London. The areas that have been allocated for the venues are still untouched in terms of urban development. And they have advantages: They’re not far from the center, they’re close to the river and public transport is satisfactory. Of course, the consent of the residents must be obtained first. What is radical, in you view? Everyone is so blase nowadays. What’s interesting is how what was radical yesterday becomes obvious today. So a radical project doesn’t cause any reaction, it seems normal, nobody is surprised. How much of what we see is not the work of a single architect but the product of a much more collective endeavor? Apart from the architect and the colleagues in the office, you have to add the consultants and the clients – a very large team. Consequently, architecture today is more than ever a collective task. We live in a very interesting era in architecture. There is lots of research into materials, but what has brought all the pieces of the puzzle together is the computer. I’m not one of those who glorify computers, but we have to admit that it is to them that we owe «communication» between the most different things: engineering and materials, materials and music, and so on. Difficult times In the early days did you ever feel excluded because your ideas weren’t being implemented? It was sad. It was the era as well. Other people didn’t understand what you were trying to do while for you it was perfectly clear. The story of the Cardiff Opera [Hadid won the first prize but eventually another design was used] blocked us. It was like a stigma on us. And at this point I must thank my clients at the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati and the Center for Contemporary Arts in Rome because they paved the way to the market for us. It’s odd that you haven’t built anything in London. In fact I haven’t built anything anywhere in England. In Britain everything starts with the contractors. Perhaps they find me incomprehensible; perhaps there’s a bit of jealousy. Indeed, it is odd. Do you keep up with what’s happening in Iraq? As much as I can. My family is not there anymore, only my cousins. In fact, I can’t be sure what’s going on. I think no Iraqi can really understand what’s going on in the country, what with bombings and kidnappings every day. It is a tragic situation. Iraq Will you take part in the reconstruction of the country? In the case of Iraq, they’ll have to start from scratch – infrastructure, schools, houses. But before you start putting up buildings, you have to rebuild society. That seems to to be the most urgent thing at the moment. And we’re not just talking about Baghdad, but almost the entire country, which has been destroyed. The cultural wealth of Iraq has received a heavy blow. The areas in the south near Ur and Babylon have been largely destroyed. That’s very important, but think how many lives have been lost. Let’s say the museums and cities can be rebuilt, but lives…