Entertainment & Arts

Dame Zaha Hadid awarded Riba Gold Medal for architecture

Zaha Hadid Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption Dame Zaha Hadid designed an extension of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London in 2013

Dame Zaha Hadid has been awarded Riba's royal gold medal for architecture, making her the first woman to be awarded the honour in her own right.

The renowned Iraqi-born, London-based architect designed the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympics.

She has designed buildings in cities from Guangzhou in China to Glasgow.

The gold medal is given in recognition of a lifetime's work by the Royal Institute of British Architects and is personally approved by the Queen.

Riba president Jane Duncan called Dame Zaha "a formidable and globally-influential force in architecture".

She said: "Highly experimental, rigorous and exacting, her work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, is quite rightly revered and desired by brands and people all around the world."

The architect was made a dame in 2012 and has won numerous awards during her career.

She has twice won the Riba Stirling Prize, the UK's most prestigious architecture award. In 2010 she won for the Maxxi Museum in Rome, winning again in 2011 for the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton.

In 2004 she became the first woman to be awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Last year the Heydar Aliyev Centre, which she designed in Baku, Azerbaijan, won the Design Museum Design of the Year Award. She was also the first woman to win the top prize in that competition.

Image copyright Riba
Image caption The Aquatics Centre built for London 2012 is one of Hadid's best-known buildings

Earlier Dame Zaha appeared on Radio 4's Today programme to discuss her prize. But the interview was cut short following a heated exchange.

When presenter Sarah Montague brought up the deaths of migrant workers during the construction of World Cup stadia in Qatar, one of which her firm designed, Dame Zaha said: "There is no deaths on our site whatsoever.

"You should check your information before you say anything."

She also refuted a suggestion the Japanese government scrapped plans to build an Olympic stadium based on one of her designs because of spiralling costs.

The $2bn (£1.3bn) stadium was to be the showpiece for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"I didn't pull out," she said after Montague said she had "pulled out" of the project. "I pulled out because we had no contractor to go with."

The exchange concluded with Dame Zaha saying: "Let's stop this conversation right now. I don't want to carry on. Thank you very much."

The Today programme later apologised, saying: "We are happy to accept there is no evidence of deaths at the main stadium site [in Qatar]."

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Heydar Aliyev Centre features Hadid's signature curves and undulations

Dame Zaha grew up in Iraq before leaving to study in the UK at the age of 17. She set up her own practice in London in 1979.

She gained a reputation across the world for her trail-blazing theoretical works including The Peak in Hong Kong, the Kurfurstendamm in Berlin, and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales.

Her other creations include the Bridge in Zaragoza, Spain; the Riverside Museum at Glasgow's Museum of Transport; and Guangzhou Opera House.

Speaking about the award, she told the BBC's Arts Editor Will Gompertz: "It's great, it's been a tough summer so it's very refreshing."

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