Zaha Hadid Wins Pritzker Architectural Prize

Iraqi-Born Briton is First Woman to Claim Top Design Award

Zaha Hadid

hide captionZaha Hadid

Steve Double
Hadid's first completed U.S. project is Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center.

hide captionHadid's first completed U.S. project is Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center.

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For its first 24 years, the Pritzker Architectural Prize was awarded only to men. This year, Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born Briton who has pushed the boundaries of design for a quarter-century, becomes the first woman to receive the prestigious honor.

Hadid, an architect, researcher and educator, tells Chicago Public Radio's Edward Lifson that she hopes her winning the Pritzker will encourage and make it easier for women to enter and excel at architecture.

Pritzker juror Rolf Fehlbaum says: "Without ever building, Zaha Hadid would have radically expanded architecture's repertoire of spatial articulation. Now that the implementation in complex buildings is happening, the power of her innovation is fully revealed."

Hadid, 53, says architecture "is really about ideas." Some of her ideas were considered radical just a decade or two ago. Now her designs have been accepted by cities and corporations worldwide. Hadid's diverse projects have included a firehouse in Germany, a ski jump in Austria and an arts center in Cincinnati. Hadid's London firm is among the five finalist competing to design the 2012 Olympic Village in Queens, N.Y., across the East River from the United Nations.

"What was seen 20 years ago as extreme ideas are now actually achievable and possible to implement," she says of her work. "So [the prize] is an acknowledgement in a sense that that work was not in a fantasia but it was really real and easy to... implement."

Hadid formally claims the $100,000 prize and a bronze medallion at a ceremony May 31 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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