Zaha Hadid: ‘What seemed radical looks obvious now’

From the suite on the 10th floor of the Hilton, Athens shines under the spring sun: an unruly, white mass overflowing into the glittering Saronic Gulf. Zaha Hadid gives it a brief glance, betraying neither disappointment nor enthusiasm. She poses reluctantly for the camera of Alexandros Philippidis, while we sit down in the three-seater sofa opposite. I try to meet her eyes, with the journalist’s habitual eagerness to break the ice. But Hadid doesn’t yield easily. She has ordered a bottle of iced water which still hasn’t come. She likes Athens (and visits practically every year) but says, «You have to do something about service,» and rolls her eyes in disapproval. «It’s bizarre what goes on,» she says, referring to the quality of service. When she gives a monosyllabic response to the first question, the judge inside me has already decided: a snob, even hostile. Am I being too hasty? A friend who studied under Hadid at university conveyed the impression of an extremely friendly woman. So what is it: Defensiveness? The caprice of a star? Excessive self-confidence? It’s probably none of the above. When Hadid gives us her first smile, everything runs smoothly. Like her buildings, she takes some time to get to know: At first she shocks you, but then you can’t get enough of her.