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Dame Zaha Hadid

The master builder. (Zaha Hadid Architects)

In a 2006 profile of architect Dame Zaha Hadid, the Guardian’s Jonathan Glancey wrote, “Hadid is still the world’s only major woman architect, by which I mean an architect who will go down in the history books.” Yet Glancey pointed out that despite her superstar status as an architect around the world, it was a quarter of a century after she opened her firm in London before her first commissioned building in Britain was completed.

The Baghdad-born Hadid, whose ideas about architecture were influenced early on by trips to the historic city of Sumer as a teenager, won the distinguished Stirling Prize two years in a row. In 2011, she won it for her design of the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton.

In 2004, she was the first woman to win architecture’s most prestigious award, the Pritzker.

“As a woman,” she told Glancey, “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.”

Hadid designed the dramatically curved London Aquatics Centre, the first building people will see as they enter the Olympic Park.

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By Paul Hechinger