Zaha Hadid Foundation inaugural exhibit explores the late architect’s radical reinventions of London

Through Zaha’s Eyes

Zaha Hadid Foundation inaugural exhibit explores the late architect’s radical reinventions of London

Zaha Hadid with Zaha Hadid Architects, Leicester Square, Blue and Green Scrapers,1990 (© Zaha Hadid Foundation)

Timed to coincide with the London Festival of Architecture, the Zaha Hadid Foundation (ZHF) has announced it will stage its first-ever exhibition, a fittingly timed survey of “radical reinventions” envisioned by the late Pritzker Prize–winning Iraqi-British architect for her longtime home.

Opening on June 8, the free, student-curated exhibition, entitled Zaha Hadid: Reimagining London, will be presented at the former headquarters of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) at a Victorian school building on Bowling Green Lane in Clerkenwell, central London. As announced at the full formal launch of the ZHF this past March, the physical footprint of the foundation, which will eventually oversee a permanent museum, gallery, learning center, research hub, and think tank, will be split between two brick-and-mortar locations: the old ZHA offices where the inaugural exhibition will be on view (the firm decamped this past summer due to difficulties converting the historic building into a post-pandemic workplace) and at the former Design Museum space within a converted banana ripening warehouse near Tower Bridge that Hadid had purchased in 2013.

Location aside, Zaha Hadid: Reimagining London is a comprehensive examination of the foundation’s archives and collections featuring a trove of “rare and unseen” works—including Hadid’s personal sketchbooks—from an uncompromising, highly decorated career that spanned architecture, art, and design. Hadid suffered a heart attack and died in March 2016 at the age of 65.

a painting by Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid, Museum of the Nineteenth Century, Exploded Axonometric (Public Landscape), 1977–78 (© Zaha Hadid Foundation)

Although Baghdad-born Hadid called London home for decades after first arriving in the British capital in 1972 to study at the Architectural Association, scant London-based projects designed by her eponymous practice during her lifetime were realized, as noted in a press release announcing the inaugural exhibition,“And yet from her student years, Hadid was profoundly inspired by London’s complex cityscape,” the statement reads. “This exhibition assembles her visions for London for the first time.”

On view are a variety of media including paintings, drawings, collages, and models that “reveal her distinctive thought process and innovative design methods, shown in projects ranging from utopian imaginings to competition entries and finished buildings.” The centerpiece is London 2066, a large-scale painting created in 1991 that imagines a future London “stretched eastwards”  with its “arteries flow[ing] in new directions.”

Zaha Hadid: Reimagining London is, as mentioned, curated by a student team from the Courtauld Institute of Art’s MA program, Curating the Art Museum. (The Courtauld is an independent college of the University of London.) “Our aim is to facilitate the work of architects, designers, artists, scholars, and the general public alike, in order to advance knowledge across the creative sector,” explained ZHF Director Paul Greenhalgh in a statement. “This exhibition by the Courtauld’s MA Curating students is the first in a series of creative collaborations with educational partners.”

an abstract painting by zaha hadid
Zaha Hadid with Zaha Hadid Architects, London 2066, Vogue Magazine (UK), 1991. (© Zaha Hadid Foundation)

A series of live events will accompany the exhibition, including a panel discussion, a talk with architect Nigel Coats, and a “late evening opening” held on June 10 in conjunction with the London Festival of Architecture. (A full run-down of the month-long slate of city-wide festivities can be found here.) Zaha Hadid: Reimagining London closes on July 2; AN plans on publishing a review of the exhibition during its run.

The ZHF was first established in 2013 by Hadid but its full realization was considerably delayed by both her unexpected death and the messy legal row over her estate that followed. The founding purpose of the foundation is 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.” Shortly following the full launch of the ZHF in March, the London School of Architecture announced a new, full-ride scholarship program for a total of three students who are refugees or come from low-income backgrounds, potentially including displaced architecture students from war-ravaged Ukraine. Funds for the scholarship program were made possible by a donation from ZHF.

Zaha Hadid: Reimagining London
June 8–July 2, 2022

On view at the Zaha Hadid Foundation
10 Bowling Green Lane, London, EC1R 0BQ
Opening Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Admission is free