Zaha Hadid and the Stirling Prize

Baghdad-born architect is favourite to take the laurels.

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A new entry, at number 42, in the New Statesman's list of the "50 people who matter today" was the architect Zaha Hadid:

The Baghdad-born architect and designer has pushed the possibilities of architecture and the horizons of architectural practice throughout her 33-year career. From Abu Dhabi to Zaragoza, manifestations of her daring, fluid deconstructivism are an antidote to the ever-present boxy, austere steel and glass of her lesser contemporaries. The world will watch Rebecca Adlington go for gold in 2012 under the breathtaking, wave-like roof of Hadid's Olympic Aquatics Centre. Away from her practice, she designs furniture and other products of dazzling beauty, and is at the leading edge of architectural teaching and research. Awe-inspiring cities of our future are in her head.

As well as occupying a place on our list between Simon Cowell (number 41) and Amartya Sen (number 43), Hadid is also on the shortlist for the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) Stirling Prize. She's been nominated for MAXXI, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome, which the judges (who include the writer and academic Lisa Jardine and the broadcaster Mark Lawson, as well as the president of Riba, Ruth Reed) have described as follows:

This museum of 21st-century art, collected since the inception of the project, is a place of paths and routes. For all its structural pyrotechnics, it is rationally organised as five main suites. The whole is bravely daylit with a sinuous roof of controllable skylights, louvres and beams, whilst at the same time conforming to the very strict climate-control requirements of modern galleries; the skylights both orientate and excite the visitor, but also turn them into uplifting spaces.

This is a mature piece of architecture, the distillation of years of experimentation, only a fraction of which was ever built. It is the quintessence of Zaha's constant attempt to create a landscape, a series of cavernous spaces drawn with a free, roving line.

The other buildings on the list are the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford (Rick Mather Architects), Bateman's Row in the City of London (Theis and Khan Architects), Christ's College School in Guildford (DSDHA), Clapham Manor Primary School in south London (dRMM) and the Neues Museum in Berlin (David Chipperfield Architects with Julian Harrap Architects).

In the latest odds from William Hill, Hadid is favourite to win the prize, at 11/8.


Jonathan Derbyshire is executive opinion editor of the Financial Times. He was formerly managing editor of Prospect and culture editor of the New Statesman.

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