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CNN’s Inside the Middle East explores the influence of Zaha Hadid

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13 Mar 2018

In a career spanning four decades, Zaha Hadid's pioneering vision redefined architecture and design for the 21st century. Capturing imaginations across the globe, especially in the Middle East, her iconic designs are part of the region's skylines. Two years since her death, CNN’s Inside the Middle East looks at how Hadid's style is still influencing Middle Eastern architecture and inspiring new generations of young architects.

CNN’s Inside the Middle East explores the influence of Zaha Hadid

Tariq Khayaat, friend of Zaha Hadid and Head of Region at Zaha Hadid Architects, Middle East describes Hadid as: “The queen of the curve, she's the queen of the straight line, she's the queen of everything. She is the queen of architecture. “

The United Arab Emirates boasts some of the most ground-breaking architecture in the world and many buildings and people are inspired by the extraordinary work of Zaha Hadid.

Riyad Joucka, Founder, MEAL (Middle East Architecture Lab) discusses the impact of Hadid’s architecture, telling the programme: “Zaha’s buildings, you really leave with this sense of awe, that anything is possible and you really could make concrete levitating and you could really make architecture that is suspended in space and I think that that is something that is definitely admirable and very motivating as a young innovative architect that is trying to sort of achieve a level of excellence and innovation in design.”

Joucka explains the originality of Hadid’s work, saying: “Usually architecture associates itself with tradition in the Middle East and a lot of architects have done that in a very superficial way but Zaha's work never did that.”

Tariq Khayyat also discusses how unique Hadid’s buildings are and describes the timeless effect of them: “Time stops. I feel that I'm not sure where I am exactly. I'm not sure which time I am in. Am I in the future? The building itself naturally invites you to explore it, to enjoy it, to love it. That's the beauty of stepping in Zaha's buildings.”

Khayyat continues, “She kind of introduced a new way of thinking, she liberated the ideas that architecture is not what we've been seeing around us for the last hundred years - architecture is about tomorrow, it's about the future. Zaha already booked her place in the future and she’s asking us to catch up.”

The Opus building in Dubai typifies Zaha Hadid’s work, as the programme learns it is bold, futuristic and unconventional.

CNN speaks to Mahdi Amjad, CEO, Omniyat, who worked closely with Zaha Hadid on The Opus. He discusses how Hadid exceeded his hopes for the building: “Of course my personal aspiration was to really affect the city line and contribute to the beauty of the skyline. I went around the world looking for inspiring, successful architects that can help me in this journey, but I must say Zaha took my expectation to a whole different level.”

Amjad describes the intricacies of the building which is made of two towers connected by a bridge. Hadid was meticulous in the detail, as Amjad explains: “The middle void is actually designed as a melting ice cube, and a tinted blue glass that is actually made of more than 4,500 individual pieces of glass that sit together like a puzzle… She was very particular about this colour, we had so many glasses chosen to be finally able to get to this tinted blue to it gives you the blue water ice effect from outside and it gives you the clarity you need from the inside. She wanted this to be completely fluid to create this melting experience of the building.”

How The Opus would function as a space was also incredibly important to Hadid, as Amjad says: “She wanted to create the space that is basically very interactive, that people could interact at different levels, and be fun, be exciting spaces, and challenge the norm. Of course, curved has been always the main focus. As one of my engineers were complaining, there's no straight line in this building. It creates phenomenal spaces.”

Inside the Middle East looks at how Zaha Hadid has become a beacon of hope for aspiring female architects across the region and internationally. Zaha Hadid made history in 2004 by becoming the first woman to win the highly acclaimed Pritzker architecture prize - an amazing achievement for any architect but a huge step for women in the industry.

Yasmin Shariff, Director, Dennis Sharp Architects discusses the extent of Hadid’s talent: “She not only won the Pritzker Prize, she also went on to win the Stirling Prize for two of her buildings. And she then went on the with the RIBA Royal Gold Medal. To have made a clean sweep of all that shows you what an amazingly talented, determined, hard working woman she was.”

Hadid paved the way for female architects and was particularly inspiring to women in the Middle East. The programme meets Nada Taryam, a thirty-two-year-old emirate architect and the senior project manager for The Bee'ah Headquarters in Sharjah, one of the last projects that Zaha Hadid worked on before she passed away.

Nada Taryam speaks about the impact that Hadid had on women in the region: “Zaha definitely opened the doors for young female architects in the Middle East…becoming one of the most famous architects around the world, is a very inspiring story for all of us and makes us believe that we should push and work hard to prove ourselves, and to get work built, and to just demand more from architecture… She managed to prove that female architects are capable of developing their own sort of sense of architecture, and their own language and Zaha perfected that.”

The show hears that the The Bee'ah Headquarters’ futuristic structure will be entirely powered by renewable energy, including solar. Nada Taryam highlights the importance and innovation of the project: “I think the building is something that's unique to the region, something that has not been seen before. Its breaking boundaries, it's pushing architecture in a different way than what we are used to.”

Tariq Khayyat concurs and explains: “It's inspired by the sand dunes, it's inspired by the sand formations, it's that concept of creating a jewel in the desert… It's like a very, very specific precious element that sits with very, very unique character, but yet perfectly blending and merging within the surrounding.”

Continuing to explore Zaha Hadid’s legacy amongst women, Inside the Middle East visits Saudi Arabia and meets two architects who are also following in her footsteps. Razwa Alharthi tells CNN: “It's a very difficult industry and knowing that she has made it, is very inspiring for me. She basically invented a completely new design language. Her work feels like it enhances your whole living experience. It integrates you into the building to experience the whole thing. That's what architecture should do.”

The programme also hears from fellow architect Sarah Alfrsani, who shares her thoughts on Zaha Hadid’s impact on females in the industry and how it opened up more opportunities: “I think Zaha opened a lot of doors for female architects. That makes the world view us, female architects, more seriously and more capable of maybe designing their iconic buildings... She managed to create a movement in the world of architecture.”

Inside the Middle East also meets 23-year-old Nisma Mansour who is soon to graduate with a degree in architecture. Nisma is from Aden in Yemen and for the last three years her country has been through one of the worst civil wars the region has seen. Nisma hopes to rebuild Aden and her architectural ambitions are driven by Zaha Hadid, she tells the programme: “Zaha gave me hope because she went through a process where everyone was underestimating her being a woman, for being an Arab. I feel related to Zaha, feel we are somehow going through the same process of pain and underestimation. Zaha did not give up and she became the person she was. She inspires me to never give up, always have hope. I will be something someday… Maybe I can be the Zaha Hadid of Yemen.”

CNN looks at how Zaha Hadid pushed the architecture industry forward and how her futuristic designs continue to propel architecture to new heights, encouraging advances in technology and engineering, and providing an ongoing source of inspiration.

Mahdi Amjad, CEO, Omniyat, explains: “Her calculations were amazing, her mathematical background has really helped her to challenge engineers. She made the architectural world a better space… she challenged the other architects… and looking for those elements of inspiration became a possibility that is more receptive by investors and developers. I appreciated design far more by working with Zaha and she became a benchmark that is difficult to beat. Every time we do another building, we try to stretch the envelope, try to push it to the next level. And the Zaha effect will always continue to be with us.”

The programme sees how Zaha Hadid’s vision continues to impact the world - shaping the skylines of the Middle East and opening up the region to innovative and inspiring architecture and shaping attitudes for years to come.

Tariq Khayyat tells CNN: “She established a way of thinking, methods of thinking, that each challenge we face in architecture and in the industry, is a way for us to solve a problem for tomorrow, for the next generation.”

It is the impact and the inspiration that Zaha Hadid provided that is key to Riyad Joucka, who says: “Perhaps even more than the pioneering buildings she designed ... It is the hope she inspires in others that could become Zaha's greatest legacy.”

‘Inside the Middle East’ airs at the following times on CNN International:
Sunday 11 March at 10.30 and 22.30 GST
Wednesday 14 March at 13.30 and 20.30 GST
Saturday 17 March at 09.30 and 22.30 GST
Sunday 18 March at 15.30 GST

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