Swiss exhibition pays tribute to acclaimed Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid

Swiss exhibition pays tribute to acclaimed Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid
Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid in her London office, UK, circa 1985. (GettyImages)
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Updated 04 June 2021

Swiss exhibition pays tribute to acclaimed Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid

Swiss exhibition pays tribute to acclaimed Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid
  • Five years on from the acclaimed Iraqi-British architect’s death, ‘Zaha Hadid: Abstracting the Landscape,’ is a celebration of her genius

DUBAI: When the pioneering Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid died unexpectedly five years ago at the age of 65, countless heartfelt tributes poured in on social media. But one image poignantly stood out, reminding us of how accomplished she was through her bold body of work: In this drawing, Hadid wore a voluminous coat covered in a collage of her signature curved buildings. With a gentle smile and her head tilted down, she almost embraces her creations, with a hand over her heart, as if they were her children. Each one embodied a distinct purpose and character, ready to face the world.

Hadid came to be known as ‘The Queen of the Curve’ due to her unconventional approach of designing imposing, sweeping buildings with a futuristic look and feel. She experimented with edgy and angular or dream-like, floating shapes that seemed to defy gravity. “The world is not a rectangle,” she famously said.

Veteran British architect Sir Peter Cook once said of Hadid: “I think she has added an enormous amount of language to architecture. She’s devised shapes that we never thought we could do.” Through her decades-long career, Hadid created multifunctional projects around the world, from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Bridge to Baku’s Heydar Aliyev Center, the spacious MAXXI Museum in Rome, and the opulent Guangzhou Opera House in China.




Mathias Rastorfer and Zaha Hadid. (Supplied)

Yet beneath this confident, world-famous persona lay an eternally curious innovator whose reputation was misconstrued by critics.

“I’ve been asked so many times how could I have worked with her as she was so aggressive. In 25 years, she was never once aggressive with me,” Mathias Rastorfer, the Swiss CEO of Zurich-based Galerie Gmurzynska and Hadid’s longtime friend, tells Arab News. “Zaha was a very sensitive person — very delicate on the inside and very tough on the outside. If you were a person who wasted her time, she became aggressive because her time was a precious commodity. It became a technique for her to fend off people who were just feeding on her fame.”

To commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hadid’s passing, Galerie Gmurzynska is hosting an exhibition entitled “Zaha Hadid: Abstracting the Landscape,” which runs until July 31. It explores a versatile and rarely seen selection of her works, going back to the dawn of her career in the 1980s.




Mesa Table. (Supplied)

“We wanted to show that you can’t put Zaha in one box. She did architecture, objects and designs,” says Rastorfer. True to his word, the display includes a double candleholder made of resin, a hand-tufted textile rug, a ‘Field of Towers’ chess set, and a cool, white fiberglass reception desk, made in 2021 by her namesake company.

A number of Hadid’s original sketches and canvases are also included, allowing us to understand her thought process for projects she had in mind for various cities and showcasing her artistic side. “Zaha was an artistic person, even though she denied that,” Rastorfer says.

The exhibition also shows how Hadid was profoundly influenced by early-20th-century art, notably the Russian avant-garde that birthed the geometric-focused art movement of Suprematism. Another major influence was the German Kurt Schwitters, a Dadaist. Indeed, one of Hadid’s last projects before her death was inspired by Schwitters’ “Merzbau,” a massive collage-like installation of found objects that was destroyed during World War II.

“When you think of the Russian avant-garde, it’s the only art movement in the early 20th century where men and women were literally equal,” explains Rastorfer. “You had Varvara Stepanova and Lyubov Popova standing side-by-side with Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky. That’s certainly one thing that fascinated her. Suprematism, as a concept, is one where you have unlimited space because it floats into the cosmos. So you connect earth with the cosmos and you connect it with an unlimited element of possibilities — you are not bound by specifications. Suprematism allowed her to have this element of unlimited potential without being restricted by traditional means.”




Cellular hand-tufted rug - with liquid glacial console. (Supplied)

Rastorfer views Hadid’s buildings as akin to kinetic sculptures. “In a way, it’s moving,” he says. “Suprematism is two-dimensional and static yet the idea is moving and I think that’s what she wanted to do in architecture.” And so she did, despite some describing her work as impractical or too expensive. Several prominent projects of Hadid’s were cancelled. So, where did her inner drive to keep going come from?

“Any creative person that has a stroke of genius knows their vision is unstoppable. Because once you stop them, they are dead,” says Rastorfer.

He also suggests that her childhood, nurtured by her forward-thinking, art-loving parents in Baghdad, where she was born in 1950, played a huge role.

In 1980, Hadid opened her London-based firm Zaha Hadid Architects, which currently employs hundreds of people. As a woman in a male-dominated field, Hadid broke a lot of glass ceilings, becoming the first woman to win the esteemed Pritzker Prize and the Royal Gold Medal for architects.

As Hadid admitted, being a woman — particularly an Arab woman in the West — came with many challenges.




1986 sketch for Office Building West Berlin. (Supplied)

“You cannot believe the enormous resistance I've faced just for being an Arab, and a woman on top of that. It is like a double-edged sword. The moment my woman-ness is accepted, the Arab-ness seems to become a problem,” she told The Guardian in 2012. “I've broken beyond the barrier, but it's been a very long struggle. It's made me tougher and more precise – and maybe this is reflected in my architecture.”

However, she didn’t particularly appreciate being labelled as a ‘female architect,’ according to Rastorfer. “For her, it didn’t matter,” he emphasizes. “It was irrelevant if you were female, it, he, she — whatever you wanted to be; you were an architect.”

And, as this exhibition makes clear, Hadid excelled at that. As the number of her international designs mounted, so too did her fame, earning her the title of ‘starchitect’.

“When you think about the term ‘supermodel’ in the eighties, there were five supermodels,” says Rastorfer. “Zaha is one of the ‘super architects’ — there’s Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Richard Meier . . . During her lifetime, architects became superstars and I think she’s part of (the reason for) that.”


What We Are Reading Today: Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization

What We Are Reading Today: Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization
Updated 24 September 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization

What We Are Reading Today: Along Came Google: A History of Library Digitization

Authors: Deanna Marcum and Roger C. Schonfeld

Libraries have long talked about providing comprehensive access to information for everyone. But when Google announced in 2004 that it planned to digitize books to make the world’s knowledge accessible to all, questions were raised about the roles and responsibilities of libraries, the rights of authors and publishers, and whether a powerful corporation should be the conveyor of such a fundamental public good. Along Came Google traces the history of Google’s book digitization project and its implications for us today.
Deanna Marcum and Roger Schonfeld draw on in-depth interviews with those who both embraced and resisted Google’s plans, from librarians and technologists to university leaders, tech executives, and the heads of leading publishing houses. They look at earlier digital initiatives to provide open access to knowledge,
and describe how Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page made the case for a universal digital library and drew on their company’s considerable financial resources to make it a reality.


Vatican Museums, Uffizi team up to confirm a Raphael is real

Vatican Museums, Uffizi team up to confirm a Raphael is real
Updated 24 September 2021

Vatican Museums, Uffizi team up to confirm a Raphael is real

Vatican Museums, Uffizi team up to confirm a Raphael is real
  • “Saints Peter and Paul by Raphael and Fra Bartlomeo. An homage to the Patrons of Rome,” marks the first exhibit for the Vatican Museums in over a year
  • The nearly life-sized paintings of Saints Peter and Paul are normally kept outside public view in the Papal Audience Apartment of the Apostolic Palace

VATICAN CITY: Two of the world’s most important art museums, the Vatican Museums and the Uffizi Galleries, joined forces for the first time on Friday.
The museums inaugurated a small exhibit of rarely seen works by two Renaissance masters that confirmed a painting long suspected of being by Raphael was indeed his work.
“Saints Peter and Paul by Raphael and Fra Bartlomeo. An homage to the Patrons of Rome,” marks the first exhibit for the Vatican Museums in over a year thanks to COVID-19 lockdowns that shuttered galleries precisely at the time that Italy was commemorating the 500th anniversary of Raphael’s death with a series of shows.
The nearly life-sized paintings of Saints Peter and Paul are normally kept outside public view in the Papal Audience Apartment of the Apostolic Palace. But they have been restored and are being displayed for the first time alongside their preparatory sketches, usually held in Florence by the Uffizi Galleries, that the Florentine master Fra Bartolemeo made around 1513 after he was commissioned to paint the saints for a Rome church.
Fra Bartolomeo finished the painting of St. Paul, but because of an artistic crisis, never finished St. Peter. The restoration and research done in preparation for the exhibit confirmed that Raphael — long believed to have finished his friend’s commission — indeed completed the work, the Vatican Museums’ director, Barbara Jatta, told a press conference Friday alongside her Uffizi counterpart, Eike Schmidt.
“It’s not the moment for big shows ... but a small show allows us to enter more into the works themselves,” Jatta said.
While the Uffizi and Vatican Museums often exchange pieces for special exhibits, Schmidt and Jatta said this was the first time the two institutions had joined up to mount a show and catalogue together, with each museum restoring and offering new research into the pieces being exhibited and drawing on their respective patron groups to fund it.
“This is in a certain sense a novelty and its really beautiful to get out of the pandemic with this,” Schmidt said. Jatta added she foresaw future collaborative projects as well.
The exhibit, in a small gallery of the Vatican Museums’ picture gallery, is included in regular museum tickets, which because of COVID regulations must be reserved online in advance, while visitors to the museum must show a health pass to get in the door.


Model Gigi Hadid walks Tod’s runway in Milan

Model Gigi Hadid walks Tod’s runway in Milan
Updated 24 September 2021

Model Gigi Hadid walks Tod’s runway in Milan

Model Gigi Hadid walks Tod’s runway in Milan

DUBAI: US-Palestinian-Dutch model Gigi Hadid on Friday walked the runway for Italian luxury label Tod’s show at Milan Fashion Week.

For the opening of the fashion show, the catwalk star wore an off-white zip-up coat dress with camel pocket-detailing, pairing her outfit with a matching bag and bulky sandals.

The catwalk star wore an off-white zip-up coat dress with camel pocket-detailing, pairing her outfit with a matching bag and bulky sandals. (Getty)

Her closing look was a vibrant see-through orange raincoat that she wore over a plain white dress.

The brand presented its spring/summer 2022 women’s collection at the event that was attended by some of the Arab world’s leading celebrities including Tunisian model Rym Saidi Breidy, and TV presenter Diala Makki.

Mom-of-one Hadid, who recently made headlines for her 2021 Met Gala look, opted for a monochrome look by Italian label Prada.

look was a vibrant see-through orange raincoat that she wore over a plain white dress. (Getty)

The off-the-shoulder design was sleek and form-fitting, and Hadid rounded it off with a pair of black tights. In true vampy style, she relaced her usually blonde locks with flowing auburn hair, which was secured with a dazzling black brooch atop her head. Over-the-elbow black leather gloves completed the glamorous look.

The supermodel and her singer partner, Zayn Malik, also celebrated the first birthday of their daughter Khai.


Beyonce poses in heels by Arab designer Andrea Wazen

Beyonce poses in heels by Arab designer Andrea Wazen
Updated 24 September 2021

Beyonce poses in heels by Arab designer Andrea Wazen

Beyonce poses in heels by Arab designer Andrea Wazen

DUBAI: US superstar Beyonce is the latest A-list celebrity to step out wearing Lebanese footwear designer Andrea Wazen’s creations. 

The singer, songwriter and actress, who celebrated her 40th birthday earlier this month, shared a series of images on Instagram on Thursday championing Wazen’s Dassy PVC pumps, transparent pointy-toed heels with white detailing.

In the pictures, the “Crazy in Love” singer modeled a glittering green cocktail dress with floral appliqués by renowned Italian luxury label Dolce & Gabbana. 

She had her hair in a slicked-back ponytail.

The “Crazy in Love” singer modeled a glittering green cocktail dress with floral appliqués by renowned Italian luxury label Dolce & Gabbana. (Supplied)

The pictures showed Beyonce vacationing with her husband, US rapper Jay Z.

It’s no secret that Wazen is one of the most in-demand footwear designers today. The Lebanese designer launched her namesake label in Beirut in 2013 and has since gone on to grab the attention of world-famous superstars. 

Her strappy sandals, leather boots and tulle-ruffled slingbacks have been spotted on a broad spectrum of stars that include Hailey Bieber, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Alba, Addison Rae, Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and more.


Princess Reema hopes global walkathon will raise awareness of plight of big cats

Princess Reema hopes global walkathon will raise awareness of plight of big cats
Updated 24 September 2021

Princess Reema hopes global walkathon will raise awareness of plight of big cats

Princess Reema hopes global walkathon will raise awareness of plight of big cats
  • Global ‘Catwalk’ scheduled for November will ‘form a bridge between cat conservation, the environment, and active lifestyles’

DUBAI: In an effort to raise awareness of endangered big cats and their ecosystems, the US-based independent non-profit foundation Catmosphere is hosting a worldwide ‘Catwalk’ on November 6 in a bid to get people moving and simultaneously benefit the world’s big cats.

Catmosphere was launched in July by Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, who is on a mission to safeguard the lives and wellbeing of big cats. Catmosphere aims to magnify the efforts of Panthera, the only organization in the world devoted to the conservation of 40 species of wild cats.

“Catmosphere is a catalyst for change. Its campaigns and activations are (intended) to build momentum globally around big cat conservation,” Princess Reema told Arab News. “I first understood the threat to the future of big cats when I learned about Panthera’s work in Saudi Arabia with the Royal Commission of AlUla, where they are researching the status of the Arabian leopard in the Kingdom with a view to forging a path for its recovery in the region.”

Catmosphere aims to magnify the efforts of Panthera, the only organization in the world devoted to the conservation of 40 species of wild cats. (Shutterstock)

Many species of big cats are now facing extinction. Catmosphere focuses on Panthera’s conservation efforts covering seven big cat species: Tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars, pumas, leopards, and snow leopards.

“The future of big cats is under threat, primarily due to diminishing habitats,” Princess Reema said. “Accordingly, Catwalk is striving for a healthy habitat for big cats, and healthy habitats start at home. A healthy and active lifestyle helps us respect our own bodies, and engaging with our environment gives us an appreciation for the fundamental role it plays in all of life. Catwalk invites us all to ignite physical movement locally, and in doing so trigger the big cat conservation movement globally.”

Princess Reema, who sits on the boards of both the Catmosphere foundation and Panthera’s Conservation Council, is actively involved in Catwalk as part of the leadership team.

Many species of big cats are now facing extinction. (Shutterstock)

It hopes to rally supporters around the world to take part in the global, mass-participation seven-kilometer walk on Nov. 6.

The event is open to everyone and can be completed in whatever way works best for the participant, wherever they are in the world. What is unique about the event is its link between building awareness about big cats, the environment and the importance of one’s own health, wellbeing and physical fitness.

“The global mass-participation activity aims to form a bridge between cat conservation, the environment, and active lifestyles, and brings together my own past experiences in campaign curation,” Princess Reema said. “I’m excited to work with different stakeholders all around the globe to map a path for scalable, inclusive campaign delivery that demonstrates how igniting a movement locally can result in meaningful change, ensuring the wellbeing and continuation of big cat populations globally.”

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud is on a mission to safeguard the lives and wellbeing of big cats. (AFP)

Princess Reema stressed that the pandemic has impacted the world’s experience of both wildlife and community.

According to the World Health Organization, 24 percent of all human deaths are attributable to environmental factors. A quarter of the world’s population is at risk due to insufficient exercise in increasingly sedentary societies. Big cats are even more dependent on their environments than humans.

Panthera has warned that important species are threatened by habitat loss, and that the tiger, lion, leopard and cheetah have lost between 65 percent and 96 percent of their historical numbers.

The seven-kilometer walk will take place on Nov. 6. (Supplied)

“The reality of the pandemic and the experience that the whole world has just had of separation and isolation from human communities due to COVID-19 is very much what was done to the big cats when we cut off their territorial corridors and isolated them from their natural habitats in nature,” Princess Reema said.

“Just as we have seen that impact on us, imagine what that impact has been on them. Catwalk is hoping to highlight a very simple fact: That our collective wellbeing is interconnected, and so it is incumbent on all of us to operate through empathy and provide spaces that we as humans would want to live and thrive in, and ensure the same for big cats,” she added.

As Princess Reema underlines, given the challenges presented by the pandemic over the past 18 months, now is the time to reassess our relationship with nature and as well as that “between a healthy person and a healthy environment, to showcase the potential that each of us has to ensure a healthy future for big cats, too.”