Zaha Hadid

18 Oct 2014 – 23 Dec 2014

Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

Tokyo, Japan


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Baghdad-born, London-based architect Zaha Hadid (1950- ) is a maestro, leading the sphere of contemporary architecture and enthralling the world. She established her own practice in 1980, and shot into fame along with her ideas when she won the international competition for The Peak in 1983. However, Hadid's designs were so ahead of their time that they were beyond the construction technology and the prevailing architectural thinking back then. Even after more than 10 years of practice, none of her projects, including The Peak, had actually been constructed, which earned her a reputation in Japan as the “queen of the unbuilt”. Her first built project, the Vitra Fire Station, was finally completed in 1993. Since then, she went on to win large-scale competitions one after another, and to have her works actually realized. And by winning the first prize at the New National Stadium of Japan International Design Competition, her work is now set to be realized here in Japan as well.

In her first large-scale solo exhibition in Japan, both Zaha Hadid's past and current projects are presented, in order to showcase her ideas from a broad perspective. Her works are displayed through a dynamic installation that uses up the entire exhibition space: from the drawings during her unbuilt period, which were based on tremendous amounts of research, to the designs of completed projects around the world, including her product designs that exemplify how she crosses over different scales.

At the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, the exhibition was initially inspired by the competition for the New National Stadium of Japan, and was conceptualised as a Zaha Hadid exhibition in the course of focusing on her entry and eventual selection. Various controversies have played out concerning the stadium, but there seemed to be a palpable lack of information regarding its designer. Consequently, this exhibition aims to give visitors the chance to experience the architecture of Zaha Hadid from their respective points of view --- whether they are hearing her name for the very first time or know of her since the early days --- as well as to be exposed to the ideas behind her work.


Born in a progressive Iraqi family, Zaha Hadid spent her childhood among people of diverse cultural backgrounds. She studied mathematics at a university in Beirut. After moving to the United Kingdom in 1972, Hadid enrolled at the Architectural Association School of Architecture (AA School) to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an architect. She met Rem Koolhaas, who was teaching there at the time. After graduating, she joined the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) headed by Koolhaas. She then established her own practice three years later in 1980.

After setting up office, Hadid soon drew worldwide attention by winning first prize at the international competition for The Peak and for a number of other projects. Unfortunately, these projects were cancelled at the design stage, and none were built for more than 10 years. However, this was a time when she expended tremendous amounts of energy on research and repeated experimentation related to architecture and the city. There were also projects that were connected to Japan during this period, such as the interior design of the Moon Soon restaurant in Sapporo, which became the first realized project of her career.

The first half of the exhibition presents her early works during the time that she was labelled as the “queen of the unbuilt”, such as her vigourously rendered paintings and drawings, her models that explore the potentials of space and the city, as well as three of her projects in Japan, including the restaurant interior design in Sapporo.

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Zaha Hadid


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