The Zaha Hadid Foundation (ZHF) had revealed its plans to establish a permanent museum, gallery, learning center, research hub, and think tank split between two separate venues in London, the city where the foundation’s Baghdad-born namesake had lived since the early 1970s and later headquartered her eponymous architectural practice.
Although ZHF was first established by Hadid in 2013, its full development was, per the foundation, “inevitably delayed” by the sudden death of the Iraqi-British architect, artist, and designer in Miami in March 2016. Hadid was 65 years old at the time of her passing and had amassed numerous international awards and accolades including the Pritzker Prize (2004, a first for a woman architect), the Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture (2007), the RIBA Stirling Prize (2010 and 2011), the Jane Drew Prize (2012), and RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal (2016), among many others.
Now fully launched with the appointment of a senior team led by inaugural director Paul Greenhalgh, ZHF will carry out its founding purpose of preserving and making publicly available the “full range of Zaha’s extraordinary output” while “advancing research, learning, and the enjoyment of related areas of modern architecture, art, and design.”
“[Zaha’s] rise to global prominence was by no means an easy one,” elaborated the foundation in a statement shared by Building Design, noting that Hadid had faced numerous challenges during her lauded career as an Arab woman. “In this spirit, ZHF will actively support young people and students from diverse and complex backgrounds in their quest to become architects, designers and scholars” through a series of yet-to-be-announced award programs.
As noted by the foundation, it is now in its “first strategic planning phase and is in the process of developing its buildings, managing and cataloguing its collection” while also organizing the first round of public programming and scholarship/grant initiatives. At the conclusion of the planning phase, ZHF’s collections, which include roughly 10,000 works by or relating to Hadid across a range of media including models, furniture, drawings, paintings, jewelry, and more, will become accessible both physically at the foundation’s brick-and-mortar London locations and digitally through a comprehensive online database.
As for ZHF’s physical footprint, the foundation’s gallery, museum, and research and learning facilities, will be split between two locations. They are, as detailed by Building Design, the erstwhile Design Museum space, a converted banana ripening warehouse on the historic riverfront street Shad Thames that Hadid had purchased in 2013, and at Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA)’s former headquarters located at a former Victorian school building on Bowling Green Lane in Clerkenwell, central London. ZHA decamped from its longtime offices this past summer due to difficulties converting the historic building into a post-pandemic workplace.
Said Greenhalgh, an art historian, curator, and museum director whose previous roles, among others, include Head of Research at the V&A Museum in London, director of Norman Foster’s Sainsbury Centre at the University of East Anglia, and director and president of Washington, D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design:
“It is an enormous honour to be leading the Zaha Hadid Foundation in its inaugural phase. We intend to preserve the magnificent creative legacy of Zaha, by making publicly available our unrivalled collection of her works, and presenting these to the world through exhibitions at home and internationally. In the creative and intellectual spirit of Zaha, we will also address the condition of architecture and related arts of our times, through education and research programmes. Zaha loved to teach and to promote understanding of Modern architecture and art. She constantly sought to give access to the world of architecture and design to young people and a wider public. Through programmes of bursaries, grants, and awards, ZHF will operate in this same spirit.”
While the nearly decade-long realization of ZHF was certainly complicated by Hadid’s unexpected passing in 2016, Building Design also points out that a messy and drawn-out legal feud between the four executors of her estate that was finally settled in November 2020 also no doubt contributed to the delay. The litigious dispute was resolved when the executors, including ZHA principal Patrik Schumacher, reached an agreement in court that a majority of Hadid’s $133 million estate would be allocated to her foundation.