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Zaha Hadid's Connection to Qatar Museums

29 October 2020
A black and white close-up photo of Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid's legacy in Qatar ranges from architectural concepts to a groundbreaking stadium

It's been more than four years since the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid died. In celebration of what would have been her 70th birthday, we look at the 'Queen of the curves' legacy in Qatar. From design concepts to major architectural projects, Hadid's long career has been intertwined with Qatar's evolving urban environment and ever-changing skyline.

Born on 21 October 1950 in Baghdad to an affluent Iraqi family, Hadid decided to become an architect at the tender age of 11 – or so her origin story goes. She moved to London in 1972, age 22, to pursue a degree at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. And in just a few years after her graduation, she opened her own architecture studio in 1980. Potentially a gutsy move for an emerging female architect? But as she stated 'Your success will not be determined by your gender or your ethnicity but only by the scope of your dreams.' 

At first, she gained fame for her colourful sketches and dramatic designs for proposed buildings that, although published in architectural journals, remained mostly unbuilt. She continued to push her vision, and in 1997 she put forward the first of her Doha concepts when she designed a conceptual model of a museum of Islamic Art for the city. This design was submitted to a competition commissioned by the late Sheikh Saoud Al Thani, and organised by the Aga Khan Museum.


Photo of Zaha Hadid's concept for an Islamic Art museum in Doha. A large photo of her plan on a black background hanging in the Making Doha exhibition.
Zaha Hadid's 1997 concept of an Islamic Art museum in Doha was featured in the exhibition Making Doha: 1950-2030 © OMA

Her original concept 'interpreted the particular cultural significance of this museum in Qatar as a duality involving the desire for a world-class museum and an institution having concrete educational objectives for its population.' A sentiment that echoes what Qatar Museums strives for today.

The model was featured in the National Museum of Qatar's 2019 exhibition Making Doha: 1950–2030. The exhibition, along with Hadid's proposed concept, provided a tantalising look at how Doha's built environment has evolved over seventy years.

Hadid went on to create the visually striking Al Janoub Stadium. Commissioned for the 2022 World Cup, this white pearlescent circular structure is hard to miss as you drive south from Hamad International Airport (HIA). Perhaps a fitting tribute to Hadid, as it was completed after she passed away.


Zaha Hadid's Al Janoub Stadium was completed after she passed away.

The stadium's structure was an abstract take on the traditional dhow boat – an iconic vessel – and offers radically different views from every angle. The design features a rippling effect on the roof structure, similar to sand dunes sculpted by the wind. Its glass walls, below the roof, are covered in Islamic geometric patterns, an elegant visual reminder of its local inspiration. 

In 2013, Zaha Hadid's architecture firm was also commissioned to build a hotel in Lusail City, just outside Doha. The proposed design was inspired by the desert hyacinth, a flower native to the Arabian Gulf. To keep the building cool, the design featured mashrabiya, traditional latticework historically added to windows in the region, which reduces heat from the sun. 

An exceptional architect, her eponymous design firm continues to impact the cityscapes of the Middle East and North Africa. And through the Hadid/Omniyat Fellowship Fund at Harvard University, where she was a professor throughout the 1980s, she nurtures the next generation of architectural talent from the Arab world.

Have you seen the Al Janoub Stadium yet, or were you one of the visitors who marvelled at the growth of Qatar's capital city at the Making Doha exhibition? Share your stories with us on social media, be sure to tag us @Qatar_Museums.

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