Dame Zaha Hadid has been awarded the Royal Gold Medal for architecture from the Royal Institute of British Architects in recognition for her achievement as a leading architect. It is the first time a woman has been given this major prize. “I’m very proud to be the first woman to receive the honour in my own right.” The two previous women honourees, Ray Kaiser Eames and Patricia “Patty” Hopkins – were presented the medal in tandem with their husbands, Charles Eames and Sir Michael Hopkins. Zaha was made a dame in 2012 and has twice won the Riba Stirling Prize. Hadid given approval by the Queen for the medal. This is an accolade previously given to Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry and Lord Norman Foster.
The architect left Iraq at 17 to study in the UK and set up her own practice in London in 1979. Her work includes the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, the Aquatics Centre constructed for the 2012 London Olympics and the Maxxi Museum in Rome as well as the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery in London, the Riverside Museum at Glasgow’s Museum of Transport, and Guangzhou Opera House in China.
“We now see more established female architects all the time,” said Dame Zaha as she accepted the medal on Wednesday. “That doesn’t mean it’s easy. “Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress.”
Zaha’s intergalactic stadium design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was scrapped last year after it was deemed too expensive to build.