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Zaha Hadid wins RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal

Laura Klöser

Zaha Hadid is the first female to win the Royal Gold Medal since the award has been founded in 1848.

Zaha Hadid is the first female to win the Royal Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architecture.




The Royal Institute of British Architects announced Zaha Hadid as the winner oft he Royal Gold Medal 2016. Since 1848 the award is given to personalities that render outstanding services in architecture. Hadid is the first female laureate.

Zaha Hadid: Larger than life

The jury recognized Zaha Hadid’s lifelong advancement of the field of architecture without following trends or fashion. Peter Cook, member of the jury: ‘If Paul Klee took a line for a walk, then Zaha took the surfaces that were driven by that line out for a virtual dance and then deftly folded them over and then took them out for a journey into space. (…) Of course, in our culture of circumspection and modesty her work is certainly not modest, and she herself is the opposite of modest. Indeed her vociferous criticism of poor work or stupidity (…) is surely characteristic of the seriousness with which she takes the whole business. (…) 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. Our Heroine. How lucky we are to have her in London.’

Artist for Peace, Dame and World’s Most Powerful Woman

Zaha Hadid was born 1950 in Baghdad and studied first mathematics in Beirut, then architecture under Elia Zenghelis and Rem Koolhaas in London. Afterwards she worked at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, where she became a partner shortly after. 1979 Zaha Hadid Architects was founded in London. Again and again she gives lectures at Harvard and Yale University and the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, just to name a few.

Pritzker Prize and Stirling Prize (also RIBA) are just a few of the awards Hadid has already received. UNESCO named her “Artist for Peace”, the Queen honored her as a Dame in 2012 and Forbes Magazine counts her as one of the “World’s Most Powerful Women”.

“Architects have the skills and tools to address critical issues”

Zaha Hadid on the award: „I am very proud to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal, in particular, to be the first woman to receive the honour in her own right. I would like to thank Peter Cook, Louisa Hutton and David Chipperfield for the nomination and Jane Duncan and the Honours Committee for their support. We now see more established female architects all the time. 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. This recognition is an honour for me and my practice, but equally, for all our clients. It is always exciting to collaborate with those who have great civic pride and vision. Part of architecture’s job is to make people feel good in the spaces where we live, go to school or where we work – so we must be committed to raising standards. Housing, schools and other vital public buildings have always been based on the concept of minimal existence – that shouldn’t be the case today. Architects now have the skills and tools to address these critical issues.”

Royal Gold Medalists

Big names of architecture such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Sir Norman Foster and David Chipperfield were awarded the Royal Gold Medal in the Past. The official ceremony will be held in early 2016.

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