Monday, 11 April 2016

"Would they call me a diva if I were a guy?" Zaha Hadid, Architect and Woman

Do you resent being called “architecture’s diva,” or do you find it empowering?

"I do find it incredibly frustrating, but I don’t mind. Everything that I am called which was negative, I try to think of it as positive — so it’s fine. It is so tough for women in the professional world. If a man has an opinion, people describe him as opinionated or powerful. However, if a woman in business voices her opinion, she is considered to be difficult or a diva!" 

Zaha Hadid



"Would they call me a diva if I were a guy?" 
Zaha Hadid

When Zaha Hadid's retrospective opened in Vienna in 2003, more than 2.000 people showed up. At the door, T-shirts emblazoned with her quote "Would they call me a diva if I were a guy?" were given out by attendants (via).
"For mixed in with the grief at Hadid’s loss is also anger among women architects who, no matter how they felt about her work, could empathize with the hostile reactions that, too often, seemed to come her way.
After Hadid won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, architectural journalists who might have been expected to laud her achievement instead commented negatively on her looks, clothes, ability to speak English and her talent and worthiness as a laureate. No other Pritzker Prize winner had been subjected to such a belligerent press response.
The New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp referred to her as “a big, raucous peasant woman” whose “earthier appetites” leaned toward eating lamb testicles over reading books. Guardian reporter Stuart Jeffries suggested that the price of her global travels and successes was to be single and miserable. Edwin Heathcote of the Financial Times rudely asked her if she deserved the prize.
That Hadid rose above it, fought back, and even walked out of interviews may have been perceived by some as diva-like. But to many women in architecture, her toughness was about a refusal to be dismissed. And that meant a lot." Despina Stratigakos, Associate Professor and Interim Chair of Architecture, University of Buffalo


"As a woman, you're not accessible to every world."
Zaha Hadid

"Architecture is particularly difficult for women; there's no reason for it to be. I don't want to blame men or society, but I think it was for a long time, the clients were men, the building industry is all male." 
Zaha Hadid

"I used to not like being called a 'woman architect': I'm an architect, not just a woman architect. Guys used to tap me on the head and say, 'You are okay for a girl.' But I see the incredible amount of need from other women for reassurance that it could be done, so I don't mind that at all." 
Zaha Hadid

"I don't generally think of myself always as a woman architect, as I've said many times. People ask 'what is it like to be a woman architect?' and I say 'I don't know, I've not been a man'. I feel that I should be recognised as an architect first. But now I think that if it serves as an inspiration or it helps women architects to push on then that's fine. Whenever I give lectures, I get lots of women come up to me wanting reassurance that it's a trip worth taking."
Zaha Hadid

"I don’t think any man could actually compete with her. If we can eliminate the practice of talking about female architects, it would be the greatest tribute we could give her."
Eva Jiřičná



Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid (1950-2016) was a Baghdad-born British architect and the first woman and first Muslim to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004 (via) - the prize was first awarded in 1979 - and the first woman to be named recipient of the Royal Gold Medal (given annually since 1848) in her own right (via). In a speech, Jane Duncan made the following remarks:
"Speaking as only the third woman president of the RIBA I find it amazing that it has taken until 2016 to elect the first female Royal Gold Medallist.""To right a 180-year wrong we elected a woman whom I have admired since my student days, visiting the AA [the architecture school where Hadid studied and taught] from the Bartlett up the road.""I come not to bury sexism but to praise Zaha. I am not here to castigate my predecessors and their committees for their masculine choices – what else could they do given how hard we make it for women to rise to the top of our profession?"  (via)
When Hadid studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London where she met Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis and Bernard Tschumi (via), only about 6% of the profession were women (via). She often spoke about the unfair treatment she experienced as both a woman and a foreigner. After her sudden death last March, more female architects started speaking out about suffering sexism at work. According to a survey carried out by the Architectural Review magazine, 61% of women architects have been victim of gender discrimination; four out of ten say that their bosses are responsible (via)
"She did not fit the stereotypical white male profession of registered architects. Jealousy and prejudice failed to bar her way, but it took its toll. Very few people realise the misogynistic, racist and anti-architect environment she had to navigate in Britain. For Muslims, minorities and women, Zaha is a shining torch beaming into the dark minds for whom a few tiles falling off a building seemed a justification to dismiss her work."  Yasmin Shariff, director of Dennis Sharp Architects
“I think Zaha was right that women have to work harder than men to prove themselves. There is a shortage of women architects at the top of the profession and running their own practices in the UK.”  Alison Brooks, winner of Stirling prize in 2008


More statements:

"I am sure that as a woman I can do a very good skyscraper."
Zaha Hadid

"People don't talk to you properly. It's the way they talk to you; they dismiss you. I think it's a combination of me being a woman and a foreigner."
Zaha Hadid

"As a woman, I'm expected to want everything to be nice and to be nice myself. A very English thing. I don't design nice buildings - I don't like them. I like architecture to have some raw, vital, earthy quality."
Zaha Hadid

"I'm judged more harshly because I am a woman."
Zaha Hadid

"In London it was very timid, people behave well, they're polite -- especially if you're a woman. A woman should behave properly. It means that you don't challenge the situation."
Zaha Hadid

"If you're a man you're seen as someone who's tough and ambitious," she says. "But when a woman is ambitious it's seen as bad. I think things have changed in the last 20 years. They're better. But there's still prejudice."
Zaha Hadid

"I think it's a boys' club everywhere. And I'm not privy to that world so much -- they go fishing, they go golfing, they go out and have a drink. And as a woman you're excluded from that bonding. It's a big difference."
Zaha Hadid

"Men think a woman should not have an opinion."
Zaha Hadid

"Society has not been set up in a way that allows women to go back to work after taking time off. Many women now have to work as well as do everything at home and no one can do everything. Society needs to find a way of relieving women."
Zaha Hadid

"I don't think people should do things because you know, 'I am turning this age, I must go have a husband.' If you find somebody and it works out then have kids, it's very nice. But if you don't, you don't."
Zaha Hadid

"In Iraq, many of my female friends were architects and professionals with a lot of power during the 1980s while all the men were at war in Iran."
Zaha Hadid

"When I taught, all my best students were women."
Zaha Hadid

"There are lots of women in school and whenever I teach I have a lot of women students, all from the beginning. When I started teaching there were mostly boys, and now there are lots of women who are actually sometimes the best students in the studio. It's a mystery to me what happens to them afterwards. I don't know what happens, whether it's a lack of confidence or difficult circumstances in offices or vanity or they're not accepted. I don't know.
Zaha Hadid

"It’s still very difficult for women to operate as professionals because there are still some worlds women have no access to. But I don’t believe that much remains of the stereotype that architecture should be a male rather than a female career. 50% of first year architectural students are women, so women certainly don’t perceive this career as alien to their gender. In our office we have no stereotypical categories that relate to gender at all."
Zaha Hadid

"You now see more established, respected female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the difficulties are incomprehensible. But in the last fifteen years there’s been tremendous change, and now it’s seen as normal to have women in this profession."
Zaha Hadid

"If you think about making a city that is much more porous, many accessible spaces, that is a political position, because you don't fortify, you open it up so that many people can use it."
Zaha Hadid

"Women are always told, 'You're not going to make it, its too difficult, you can't do that, don't enter this competition, you'll never win it,' - they need confidence in themselves and people around them to help them to get on." 
Zaha Hadid

"Like men, women have to be diligent and work hard." 
Zaha Hadid

"Half of architecture students are women, and you see respected, established female architects all the time."
Zaha Hadid

"Being an Arab woman and a modern architect certainly don’t exclude each other! When I was growing up in Iraq, there were many woman architects. My earliest memory of architecture, I was perhaps 6 years old, was of my aunt building a house in Mosul in the north of Iraq."
Zaha Hadid

"It’s still very difficult for women to operate as professionals because there are still some worlds women have no access to. But I don’t believe that much remains of the stereotype that architecture should be a male rather than a female career. Fifty percent of first year architectural students are women, so women certainly don’t perceive this career as alien to their gender. In our office we have no stereotypical categories that relate to gender at all.
You now see more established, respected female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the difficulties are incomprehensible. But in the last fifteen years there’s been tremendous change, and now it’s seen as normal to have women in this profession.
I still experience resistance, but I think this keeps me focused. It’s not as if I just appear somewhere and everybody says yes to me — it’s still a struggle, despite having gone through it a hundred times. It’s not necessarily always great, but it makes you think about and do things in a different way."
Zaha Hadid



photographs via and (by Bryan Adam) via and via and via and via

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