A female architect complains that the English are sexist when it comes to giving jobs to women in her profession. Yet, Dame Zaha Hadid was awarded her title for services in architecture, hailed by the BBC as one of the most powerful women in England, and duly noted in the British magazine New Statesman on their list of The World's 50 Most Influential Figures.
For a country accused of sexism, these kudos seem unexpected.
Then there’s her architectural firm. Headquartered in London, Zaha Hadid Architects employs more than 350 people, which doesn’t sound like she goes begging for work?
Granted, Dame Hadid gets a lot of her work outside of the UK. But she’s snagged some nifty UK commissions, including London Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park, Riverside Museum development of Glasgow Transport Museum in Scotland and the Evelyn Grace Academy in London.
All of which is no easy accomplishment given that her buildings – all decidedly futuristic and fragmented – are hard to look at. http://www.examiner.com/article/a-zigzagged-building-doesn-t-square-with-its-function She says it’s her way of conveying chaos in modern life. As if we wouldn’t know our world was chaotic if she didn’t design in-your-face monuments to it.
I’m thinking of her Evelyn Grace Academy, which I’ve described in previous columns as a dizzying zigzag of steel and glass that seems out of place for a place of learning. Dame Hadid was nonetheless rewarded for this mish-mash with Britain’s coveted 2011 Stirling Prize for architecture.
I have also columnized about another one of Dame Hadid’s dizzying zigzags, her new $40-million Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, saying that her wild configurations seem less about what they’re for and more in keeping with amusement parks.
Naturally, she doesn’t agree. “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?...I don't design nice buildings.”
Can a woman who talks like this fault the UK’s architecture community if she doesn’t get every commission she seeks? Can she legitimately say, “There is a skepticism and more misogynist behavior here,” when she flouts taste so aggressively?
Even she has to concede that “while there were people against me, there were also people living here who were incredibly supportive."
Look, I don’t doubt that male architects get more work than females – likely not only in the UK. Sexism is not confined to any one place. It’s a long-lived fact of life. It should be noted, though, that Dame Hadad isn’t the only female architect known in UK architecture history.
In the 17th century there was Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham, believed to be the first known female architect.
Ethel Charles, born in 1871, was the first woman admitted to The Royal Institute of British Architects.
Ruth Reed was the first female president of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Flora Samuel heads the School of Architecture at Sheffield University.
Sarah Wigglesworth is a multiple winner of the Royal Institute of British Architects Award.