Why we talk about Zaha Hadid’s gender and ethnicity even though her architecture transcended both

To say that the sudden death of Zaha Hadid last week has left a gap in architecture is an understatement.

She was a woman in a field dominated by men. An Iraqi-born, secular Muslim who made her home in clubby Protestant England. A flamboyant, cape-wearing figure who was recognizable, Madonna-like, by simply her first name. Most important, she was an architect who pushed the field forward, toward ever more complex, organic shapes that seemed to take their inspiration from the webbed patterns of biological tissue and the globular shapes of cells.

“She charted new territory for all architects with her vision,” architect Sharon Johnston, founding principal at Johnston Marklee, an L.A.-based firm, stated via email. “Zaha’s passion, personality and sheer talent were all essential to her success and her undeniable importance in the history of contemporary architecture.”

She was far more interested in pushing the boundaries of design than of society. And yet, there’s no denying that Hadid’s gender and ethnicity were part of what made her an outsized role model for so many. Hadid, after all, was the first woman to win the Pritzker, architecture’s most prestigious prize, as well as the first female to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects. She was, as Kriston Capps notes over at Citylab, the first real-deal female starchitect — a figure whose name and designs resonated way beyond the architectural community.

In addition to buildings, she also designed jewelry, yachts and even a jelly shoe.

“I never use the issue about being a woman architect,” she told the Guardian in 2004, “but if it helps younger people to know they can break through the glass ceiling, I don’t mind that.”

The focus on her storied career in the wake of her death shows how much it is possible for a woman to achieve — and how much more ground women have yet left to cover.

A report published by the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects last year revealed that though women make up 42% of graduates from programs accredited by the National Architecture Accrediting Board, they make up only 28% of architectural staff in AIA-member-owned firms, and only 17% of principals and partners.

In addition, a study released this year by the national AIA shows that women and minorities in the United States, two groups underrepresented in architecture, both cite a lack of role models as one of the major reasons the profession remains largely male and white.

The women who do labor in these environments have had to contend with dismissive or downright hostile behavior. In an interview I conducted with architect Denise Scott Brown in 2013, she described everything from direct insults to not being invited to architect parties because she was the “wife.” (She ran a firm with her husband, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Robert Venturi.)

Hadid, who was based in London, had to deal with some bad behavior herself. Anissa Helou, a cookbook author, teacher and chef, was a longtime friend of the architect’s. The two met in the early 1970s, at a dinner party hosted by a mutual friend.

“Being a strong woman and a foreigner in London in a man’s field [at the time] did not make it easy for her,” she stated via email. “Also, being so ahead of her time in her thinking and designs and being so uncompromising about what she wanted to do did not help, so she had to contend with a lot.”

When Hadid accepted the Royal Gold Medal earlier this year, she said in her remarks: “We now see more established female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.”

Moreover, there was the issue of her Iraqi heritage, which wasn’t always well-received.

“It’s a triple whammy,” she told the BBC Radio 4 in February. “I’m a woman, which is a problem to many people. I’m a foreigner — another problem. And I do work which is not normative, which is not what they expect. Together, it becomes difficult.”

In the mid-1990s, Hadid won a competition to design a new opera house in Cardiff, Wales. As concerns about the purpose of the building and its budget hit the press, xenophobic remarks began to surface. One Welsh minister of parliament said that her geometric design was identical to the shrine in Mecca.

“It was disgusting the way I was treated,” Hadid told the New Yorker in 2009. “These British women would tell little jokes. … It was awful. ‘We don’t want a fatwa! Tee-hee!'”

“There were people,” she added, “who wouldn’t look me in the eye.”

Like any high-profile architect, Hadid was expected to produce strong, functional designs. But as a woman, she also faced the added pressure of having her work interpreted as some sort of gender statement. One of her designs for a stadium was compared to female genitalia in the press — something she described as “nonsense.”

“You are vulnerable as a woman because there is pressure for what you represent not just for the profession, but in society,” said Annabelle Selldorf, principal of Selldorf Architects in New York. “She didn’t marry. She didn’t have a family. She didn’t represent the conventional model.”

Hadid also wasn’t the sort of woman who stood around meekly asking for permission to join in, something that made her a significant example to other women.

“She was a big deal for women in architecture and not because she made that her thing,” said Selldorf. “But because she was simply a powerful person. … She was so unequivocal and so powerful. That’s what made her an idol.”

Her toughness, however, was also used against her. Hadid’s imperious manner — directed at architectural selection committees as well as magazine writers and her staff — often got her characterized as a shrew by the press. In fact, much has been made of her “diva” behavior, even in her obituaries.

As Guardian critic Oliver Wainwright noted in an essay last fall, petulant male architects get described with words such as “maverick” instead. When the irascible Philip Johnsondied in 2005, the New York Times referred to him as an “enfant terrible,” a label that comes off as charming and continental.

Certainly, there are aspects to Hadid’s career that are unsavory — such as her work in locations where serious human rights issues have come up (such as the cultural center she designed in Azerbaijan). It’s important, though, to note that in this regard she was no different from some of her male starchitect colleagues — figures such as Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas, who have taken on morally questionable assignments in locations such as Kazakhstan and China, respectively.

But whatever the ramifications of individual buildings, the fact is that Hadid’s death leaves an enormous void. She remains the only individual woman to have won the Pritzker in its nearly 40-year history, and the only woman to have won the Royal Gold Medal in its 168-year history. On so many occasions, she has been the lone female architect in the room — and with her absence, some of those rooms may revert back to being all male.

Women have made tremendous gains in architecture since Hadid launched her career in the 1970s. They build towers and design museums and magazine-worthy weekend homes. But they still remain sorely underrepresented.

Hadid’s death has prematurely taken a powerful emblem from our midst, a woman who commanded respect and prestige — and who didn’t feel the need to be all cuddly about it.

“I just do what I do and that’s it,” she told the BBC nonchalantly back in February.

As far as a whole generation of women architects are concerned, however, what she did was just the beginning.

Islam should have a ‘quintessentially British’ version with minoret-less mosques and no burqas, Warsi says

British mosques should be built without minarets, former Conservative party chairwoman Baroness Warsi said yesterday, in a speech outlining her vision for a “quintessentially British” form of Islam.

Speaking at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, where she was giving her inaugural lecture as a Visiting Professor, Baroness (Sayeeda) Warsi called on Muslims to develop “a very British Islam” in line with Islamic tradition.

The former Minister for Faiths, who resigned from the Government last year over its failure to condemn Israeli strikes on Gaza, said: “Islam is different whenever and wherever it is found. If Islam always takes its cultural references from where it finds itself, British Islam must take cultural reference points from where it grows.”

Part of this, she said, meant building quintessentially British mosques. She argued that minarets, towers built alongside mosques from which the call to prayer is broadcast, were not culturally necessary in modern Britain.

“There is no need for a minaret. There is no need for a mosque to look like it doesn’t fit into its environment. It doesn’t need to be like that. I would love for there to be English-designed mosques.”

She also denied that Muslim women were obliged to wear full Islamic dress, such as the burqa, the full body covering, where it was not part of their social cultural tradition.

“I defend my right to dress modestly – but that doesn’t have to look like it would in Yemen. I cannot understand why you would want to look like someone who walked out of Yemen, unless your parents lived there,” she said. She called on the Government to reach out to Muslim groups from across the spectrum.

France asks US Internet giants to “help fight terror”

The French government has requested that Google, Facebook and Twitter cooperate with French officials during investigations and asked that they immediately take down any extremist propaganda that is discovered, said minister of the interior Bernard Cazeneuve.

“We emphasized that when an investigation is under way we don’t want to go through the usual government to government channels, which can take so long,” said the interior minister after a meeting with representatives from the US tech giants while visiting Silicon Valley.
“It’s important to have full cooperation and quick reaction,” he added

Cazeneuve’s comments came after the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks which claimed 20 lives, including the three gunmen. Twitter and Facebook officials stated that they work to prevent radical propaganda but didn’t comment as to whether they would heed the minister’s request.

“We regularly host ministers and other governmental officials from across the world at Facebook, and were happy to welcome Mr. Cazeneuve today,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We work aggressively to ensure that we do not have terrorists or terror groups using the site, and we also remove any content that praises or supports terrorism.”

When asked whether Twitter would comply with French investigators, a spokesperson stated: “We review all reported content against our rules, which prohibit direct, specific threats of violence against others.”

An email to Google requesting comment was not immediately answered. According to US intelligence officials the number of foreign fighters leaving to join ISIL has grown, with at least 3,400 coming from Western nations out of the 20,000 from around the world.
“I told them we can figure this out together, we can come up with counterterrorism speech and block these sites that are enticing the most vulnerable members of our society to commit terrorist acts,” said Cazeneuve.

France is also pushing to treat “jihadi material” on the internet like child pornography, a task that few had heard of before the attacks in Paris, but is now widely acknowledged by Europe’s top officials. Cazeneuve believed the meeting was a solid foundation for building a strong relationship between the tech companies and the French government.

He said he invited them to go to Paris in April to continue the conversation.

Luz: “The majority of Muslims don’t care about Charlie Hebdo”

Charlie Hebdo illustrator Luz stands outside the magazine's offices after it was firebombed in 2011. (Photo: Revelli-Beaumont/SIPA/Rex Features)
Charlie Hebdo illustrator Luz stands outside the magazine’s offices after it was firebombed in 2011. (Photo: Revelli-Beaumont/SIPA/Rex Features)

Luz, the illustrator who escaped the January 7 attack at the Charlie Hebdo office, conducted a video interview with Vice. He recounts what he saw that day and discusses the magazine’s controversial headline.

“I was really lucky. It was my anniversary on January 7 and I stayed in bed with my wife for a long time. As a result, I was stupidly late to the meeting. When I arrived at Charlie, I saw people who stopped me and whole told me ‘Don’t go in there, there are two armed men who just entered the building.’”

Luz saw the two terrorists leave and reenter the building several minutes later. “I began to see traces of bloody footsteps. I understood after: it was the blood of my friends. I saw there were people on the ground. I saw a friend face down on the ground.” He continues between sobs: “They needed belts to stop the bleeding. I realized I didn’t have a belt. So now I wear belts.”

Since the attack there has been controversy surrounding the representation of Muhammad. Several demonstrations against the magazine have occurred in the Muslim world. “I think that the majority of Muslims don’t care about Charlie Hebdo,” says Luz. “I think that people who assume the right to say that the entire Muslim community was offended are people who take Muslims to be idiots.” He adds that it’s “sad” that newspapers such as The New York Times decided not to publish the cover.

“‘Hate crime’: Taxi driver recounts brutal attack”

From Komo News (Komo Staff):

“Officers arrested a 26-year-old man early Sunday after he called a taxi driver a “terrorist” and beat him unconscious, causing the cab to drift out of control and strike several parked cars before slamming into an apartment building in Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood, police said.

Investigators labeled the attack a “hate crime.”

[Read Full Text of Article Here]

Hooligans against Salafism

Throughout October, hooligans from different football clubs marched in German cities against radical Islam and Salafism. Building a coalition and network under the heading “HoGeSa”, Hooligans Against Salafists (Hooligans gegen Salafisten), they demonstrated by the end of October in Cologne. Police and intelligence services were not only surprised by the number of attendees, which was tripled by the estimated 1500, but unable to cope with the violence involved. The demonstrations planned in Hamburg and Berlin for mid-November both were canceled. In case of Hamburg the organizers themselves withdraw the demonstration while in the case of Berlin the network never registered the demonstration properly. Now “HoGeSa” is planning another demonstration for the 15th November which is going to take place in Hannover.

 

Near completion of new mega mosque “De Westermoskee” in Amsterdam

The building of the Netherland’s largest mega mosque (800 square meter and room for 1700 worshippers) has sparked some controversy over the last two decennia of its establishment. For years the building process was frustrated by several conflicts between the initiating Islamic foundation and the municipality of Amsterdam and housing cooperatives. Despite these obstacles the mega mosque is planned to be ready for interior design and decoration by the end of November.
The mosque board is already in communication with artists from Turkey for the realization of classical Islamic calligraphy in the mosque’s interior. A salient feature of the mosque will be the incorporation of indigenous influences from the artistic style and local culture of Amsterdam on ceilings and walls as well as in the tapestry. According to the mosque board the “Westermoskee” was build with the intention of opening up to not just practicing Muslims but also for the general public. The mosque intents to organize guided tours, expositions, and seminars on Islam. It also intends to involve neighborhood inhabitants in the development of social activity programs.

Man Pleads Guilty to Reduced Charge in Terrorism Case

February 20, 2014

 

Five days before his trial was to start, a Manhattan man accused of planning to wage a personal jihad against the United States with pipe bombs pleaded guilty on Wednesday to reduced charges in a deal with prosecutors.
The man, Jose Pimentel, was facing state terrorism charges for building an inexpensive pipe bomb in an informer’s apartment, and starting to work on two others, according to an indictment. Prosecutors said they had evidence that he meant to detonate bombs in New York City in retaliation for the death of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Pimentel appeared in State Supreme Court in Manhattan to plead guilty to a single count of attempted criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree as a crime of terrorism. As part of the plea deal, he agreed to serve 16 years in prison and five years of probation when he is sentenced on March 25; he had faced 15 years to life in prison under the original charges of weapons possession and conspiracy as crimes of terrorism.
Mr. Pimentel’s lawyers had contended that their client was entrapped by the police. They describe him as a down-on-his-luck young man who was easily enticed by the informer to build bombs after being plied for months with free food and marijuana.

Mr. Pimentel, a Dominican native who converted to Islam, was arrested in November 2011 after a lengthy investigation. The arrest stemmed from a sting operation by the Police Department’s Intelligence Division. The police used an undercover officer, two confidential informers and hundreds of hours of recorded conversations.
The case in state court was unusual because the federal authorities typically handle terrorism prosecutions. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which had monitored Mr. Pimentel, decided not to pursue charges against him, and the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., took on the task.
No evidence has been produced in court that Mr. Pimentel had co-conspirators or was taking instructions from terrorist organizations abroad. He has been described as a lone wolf.
At a news conference, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said Mr. Pimentel was typical of the homegrown, self-made terrorist that organizations like Al Qaeda had tried to inspire through jihadist websites and anti-Western propaganda. “This young man really was self-radicalized,” Mr. Bratton said.

Mr. Pimentel is the third person to be charged under New York’s antiterrorism law, passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Though the statute was never employed under the previous Manhattan district attorney, Mr. Vance has now used it twice.

NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/20/nyregion/manhattan-man-pleads-guilty-to-reduced-charges-in-terror-case.html?action=click&module=Search®ion=searchResults%235&version=&url=http%3A%2F%2Fquery.nytimes.com%2Fsearch%2Fsitesearch%2F%3Faction%3Dclick%26region%3DMasthead%26pgtype%3DHomepage%26module%3DSearchSubmit%26contentCollection%3DHomepage%26t%3Dqry714%23%2FIslam%2F30days%2Fallresults%2F6%2Fallauthors%2Fnewest%2F

Arabs ready to pay for the first Mosque in Milan

January 29, 2014

 

Italian and foreign lenders are ready to put the money needed to build a new Mosque in Milan; this new plan is instead of the use of the Palasharp building. The City continues to conceal these plans, at least until there is something concrete.

A slow negotiation is taking place between the deputy mayor Ada Lucia De Cesaris, some Italian and foreign entrepreneurs, and of course representatives of Muslim communities. While most continue to be tight-lipped about the new place of worship, a rough draft for a new place of worship to be built on the former Palasharp was officially presented.

De Cesaris, confirms that the committee is working on various ideas, but opposes a clear selection by stating “no comment.” His office has denied that there has been any selection in anticipation of meetings with the leaders of Islamic organizations in Milan. Davide Picarddo, a spokesman for CAIM (il Coordinamento delle associazioni islamiche di Milano), agrees: “I can only say that there is a dialogue going on with this administration, and that there is full awareness, even on their part, that the new mosque can no longer be postponed.”

Picarddo admits that there is a project already in discussion: “It is obvious that CAIM has advanced a project, but for now we do not want to make it public due to the high possibility of many changes.”

Regarding the funds needed to construct the building , Picarddo’s words are very clear: “the Italian taxpayer will not spend a dime. We have asked Italian entrepreneurs and foreign foundations in the Persian Gulf, to provide the necessary funding. Milan is an international city, we have businessmen who come to visit from Arab countries. And it is here that there is widespread interest in a place worthy of prayer. Garages, basements and sheds, should not be a long-term plan.”

 

La Repubblica: http://milano.repubblica.it/cronaca/2014/01/29/news/islam_gli_arabi_pronti_a_pagare_per_la_prima_moschea_a_milano-77164903/

A Mosque in the Darsena neighborhood? Local Official Says Yes

January 8, 2014

 

GENOA, The Mayor of Genoa, Marco Doria said “yes” to the construction of the Mosque in the neighborhood of Darsena in Genoa.

The mayor explained in a letter to the president of European Muslims.

The letter came after the League of European Muslims had expressed its readiness to buy a building in Darsena, to make it a great European center of Islamic culture and a space dedicated to prayer.

The Mayor’s commitment is crucial because the Islamic Development Bank could begin financing the project with the cost of 12 million Euros.

The letter explained that the mayor and the “municipal authorities have no objection to the fact that this important initiative will be brought to the attention of the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia.”

 

Liguria Notizia: http://www.ligurianotizie.it/costruzione-moschea-darsena-doria-dice-si/2014/01/11/112997/