Dame Zaha Hadid, the world-renowned architect, whose designs include the London Olympic aquatic centre, has died aged 65. The British designer, who was born in Iraq, had a heart attack on Thursday while in hospital in Miami, where she was being treated for bronchitis.
Hadid’s buildings have been commissioned around the world and she was the first woman to receive the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) gold medal.
A lengthy statement released by her company said: “It is with great sadness that Zaha Hadid Architects have confirmed that Dame Zaha Hadid DBE died suddenly in Miami in the early hours of this morning.
“She had contracted bronchitis earlier this week and suffered a sudden heart attack while being treated in hospital. Zaha Hadid was widely regarded to be the greatest female architect in the world today.”
Speaking from Mexico, Richard Rogers, whose buildings include the Pompidou Centre and the Millennium Dome, told the Guardian that the news of Hadid’s death was “really, really terrible”.
“She was a great architect, a wonderful woman and wonderful person,” Lord Rogers said. “Among architects emerging in the last few decades, no one had any more impact than she did. She fought her way through as a woman. She was the first woman to win the Pritzker prize.
“I got involved with her first in Cardiff when the government threw her off the project in the most disgraceful way. She has had to fight every inch of the way. It is a great loss.”
Jane Duncan, RIBA’s president, said: “Dame Zaha Hadid was an inspirational woman, and the kind of architect one can only dream of being. Visionary and highly experimental, her legacy, despite her young age, is formidable.
“She leaves behind a body of work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars, that delight and astound people all around the world. The world of architecture has lost a star today.”
The architect Daniel Libeskind said he was devastated by her death. “Her spirit will live on in her work and studio. Our hearts go out,” he said.
“She was an extraordinary role model for women. She was fearless and a trailblazer – her work was brave and radical. Despite sometimes feeling misunderstood, she was widely celebrated and rightly so.”
Architect Graham Morrison said: “She was so distinct that there isn’t anybody like her. She didn’t fit in and I don’t mean that meanly. She was in a world of her own and she was extraordinary.”
The British culture minister, Ed Vaizey, posted on Twitter, saying he was stunned at the news and praising her “huge contribution to contemporary architecture”.
The London mayor, Boris Johnson, tweeted: “So sad to hear of death of Zaha Hadid, she was an inspiration and her legacy lives on in wonderful buildings in Stratford and around the world.”
Hadid, born in Baghdad in 1950, became a revolutionary force in British architecture even though she struggled to win commissions in the UK for many years. The Iraqi government described her death as “an irreplaceable loss to Iraq and the global community”.
She studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before launching her architectural career in London at the Architectural Association.
By 1979, she had established her own practice in London – Zaha Hadid Architects – and gained a reputation across the world for groundbreaking theoretical works including the Peak in Hong Kong (1983), Kurfürstendamm 70 in Berlin (1986) and the Cardiff Bay opera house in Wales (1994).
The first major build commission that earned her international recognition was the Vitra fire station in Weil Am Rhein, Germany (1993), but her scheme to build the Cardiff opera house was scrapped in the 1990s and she did not produce a major building in the UK until the Riverside museum of transport in Glasgow was completed in 2011.
Other notable projects included the Maxxi: Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome (2009), the London aquatics centre for the 2012 Olympic Games (2011), the Heydar Aliyev centre in Baku (2013) and a stadium for the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar.
Buildings such as the Rosenthal Centre of Contemporary Art in Cincinnati (2003) and the Guangzhou opera house in China (2010) were also hailed as architecture that transformed ideas of the future. Other designs include the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in Kensington Gardens, west London, and the BMW factory in Leipzig, one of her first designs to be built.
She became the first female recipient of the Pritzker architecture prize in 2004 and twice won the UK’s most prestigious architecture award, the RIBA Stirling prize. Other awards included the Republic of France’s Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Japan’s Praemium Imperiale.
Hadid won acclaim in Scotland for designing the popular Riverside Museum in Glasgow, known for its distinctive roof structure. Muriel Gray, chair of the board of governors at the Glasgow School of Art, tweeted a picture of the Riverside museum with the message: “Horrible shocking news that Zaha Hadid, incredible architectural trailblazer has just died. Huge loss to design.”
Hadid was recently awarded the RIBA’s 2016 royal gold medal, the first woman to be awarded the honour in her own right.
Architect Sir Peter Cook wrote in his citation at the time: “In our current culture of ticking every box, surely Zaha Hadid succeeds, since, to quote the royal gold medal criteria, she is someone who ‘has made a significant contribution to the theory or practice of architecture … for a substantial body of work rather than for work which is currently fashionable’.
“For three decades now she has ventured where few would dare … Such self confidence is easily accepted in film-makers and football managers, but causes some architects to feel uncomfortable. Maybe they’re secretly jealous of her unquestionable talent. Let’s face it, we might have awarded the medal to a worthy comfortable character. We didn’t. We awarded it to Zaha: larger than life, bold as brass and certainly on the case.”