14 Futuristic Zaha Hadid Buildings That Challenge How We Think About Architecture

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The late Iraqi architect will be remembered for her futuristic designs that transformed architecture.

The modern architectural landscape has greatly benefitted from the innovative work of Zaha Hadid. With her cutting-edge designs spread all around the globe, the Iraqi-born architect pushed the boundaries of contemporary architecture during her 40-year career. Zaha Hadid's buildings are instantly recognizable because of her distinct style, largely inspired by technology and art (she credited Russsian avant-garde artists as her early influence). Dubbed "the queen of curves," Hadid, who once described her style as "virtuoso of elegance," favored fluid shapes that resulted in visually striking, often gravity-defying, structures.

Zaha Hadid's buildings were often constructed from concrete and glass—traditionally industrial materials—that she managed to turn into structures that look weightless and organic. Hadid's undeniable talent also won her the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2004, which was the first time the award was given to a woman in 26 years.

Here, we look at some of her most memorable work—from London's Aquatics Center to Guangzhou's Opera House and beyond.

R. Lopez de Heredia Wine Pavilion, Spain
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R. Lopez de Heredia Wine Pavilion, Spain

Hadid designed this building almost as a Russian doll for one of the most renowned winemakers in Spain's La Rioja. The structure houses an old wine store that dates back to 1910 and serves as a tasting room. As Hadid and her team were working on the fin-de-siecle design, its silhouette started resembling a wine decanter—a happy coincidence given the project.

Vitra Fire Station building by Zaha Hadid in Weil am Rhein, Germany
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Vitra Fire Station, Germany

Realized in 1993 in the small German town of Weil-am-Rhein, the Vitra Fire Station was part of a complex of buildings and was among the first projects Hadid built. The critically acclaimed design consists of intersecting angular planes constructed from exposed concrete. To preserve the purity of the lines, Hadid was very strict about not using any roof cladding or edging.

The MAXXI, National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome. Architects: Zaha Hadid Architects.
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MAXXI: National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome

Rome has no shortage of iconic buildings, and the Hadid-designed MAXXI museum is a fitting addition to the Eternal City's architectural landscape. The idea behind its striking architecture was the concept of fluidity—spaces intercept to form a sequence of galleries modeled after "the chaotic fluidity of modern life," according to Hadid.

Guangzhou Opera House, Zaha Hadid Architects, Guangzhou, China, 2011, Aerial View
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Guangzhou Opera House, China

This incredible masterpiece of modern architecture is credited with turning Guangzhou into a cultural destination within China. The opera house consists of two state-of-the-art buildings separated by a promenade overlooking Pearl River. The structure's location actually inspired its futuristic architecture, too—both buildings are built to resemble pebbles eroded by the flowing river.

London's first new Olympic venue is seen, revealing a state-of-the-art Aquatics Centre with a spectacular roof.
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London Aquatics Center

Built for the 2012 Summer Olympics, the London Aquatics Center was one of Hadid's favorite designs, and it was modeled after "the fluid geometry of water in motion." Hadid covered the 17,500-seat concrete sports facility with a startling wave-like roof that starts from the ground and cascades around the main pool hall.

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Elevated view of complex with landscaped green and cityscape, Galaxy Soho, Beijing, China, Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects, 2012.
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Galaxy SOHO, Beijing

Hadid designed the four glass-topped buildings of this Beijing multi-use complex without a single corner. The structures are connected by a series of stretched bridges creating a sense of fluidity and envelopment. The idea behind the design was traditional Chinese courtyards that resembled compounds.

Expo Zaragoza, Zaragoza, Spain, Architect Zaha Hadid, 2008, Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion High Level View Of The North Entrance.
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Bridge Pavilion, Zaragoza

Built for the Zaragoza Expo in 2008, this startling bridge spans the River Ebro and serves both as a footbridge and an exhibition pavilion. The structure, inspired by the expo's theme "Water and Sustainable Development," consists of four curving intersecting buildings with its cladding modeled after shark scales.

A woman walks in front of the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku on March 22, 2019. - The building was designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and is considered one of the most recognised architectural landmarks worldwide.
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Heydar Aliyev Center, Azerbaijan

Hadid realized this stunning project after winning a competition to design the 613,540-square-foot complex. The wave-like silhouette was partly inspired by traditional Azeri architecture that often features ornamentation that runs along the entire building. The gravity-defying façade was built from reinforced concrete panels and glass.

Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
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Sheikh Zayed Bridge, Abu Dhabi

This bridge carrying a two-way, eight-lane highway is not just a crucial infrastructure project that connects Abu Dhabi with the rest of the country. Because of its groundbreaking architecture, the structure has become a destination in itself and is one of the world's most iconic bridges. It rises almost 200 feet above sea level at its highest point and is comprised of cantilever road decks and asymmetrical steel arches joined together in a sine wave.

The Magazine designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, part of the newly refurbished Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Kensington Gardens, London. UK
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The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London

Located in a former 19th-century gunpowder store, the Serpentine Sackler Gallery features a futuristic extension that houses a restaurant and a social space. The striking design is in sharp contrast with the rest of the historic red brick Grade II building and was built from steel and glass. The idea behind it was that the two connected buildings serve as the physical embodiment of the past and the future.

Glasgow Riverside Museum Of Transport, 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow, G3 8Rs, United Kingdom, Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects, 2011, Glasgow Riverside Museum Of Transport (
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Riverside Museum of Transport, Glasgow

In 2011, Hadid completed another museum project, this time in Scotland, overlooking the River Clyde. The modernist structure has a striking zig-zagging roof covered in shimmering zinc panels. The building serves as a symbolic connection between the city and the river and is designed as a tunnel between the two with entrances at both ends.

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Building extension designed by architect Zaha Hadid at Ordrupgaard Art Design Architecture Museum and Art Park, Denmark.
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Ordrupgaard Museum Extension, Denmark

When this Copenhagen museum needed an additional exhibition building, Hadid designed a structure that was inspired by the topography of the surrounding environment. That way, she created not only a physical addition to the museum but also an extension of the landscape. The space was designed, so visitors have a continuous and interactive experience with the building and the beautiful gardens that surround it.

Cantilever volume and base viewed from street. Issam Fares Institute, Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon. Architect: Zaha Hadid Architects, 2014
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Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, Lebanon

The concrete building of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs in the American University in Beirut is conceived to have a minimal footprint. For that reason, much of the facilities "float" above the ground level, which only houses an auditorium for special events. The campus is designed with many pathways and features a series of interlocking platforms to convey the idea that it is a meeting point where people from all over the world interact and exchange ideas.

Port Authority Building / Port House / Havenhuis, head office in the Antwerp harbour, Belgium.
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Port Authority Antwerp, Belgium

The new headquarters for the Port of Antwerp, one of the biggest in Europe, is housed in a former fire station on top of which Hadid designed a cloud-like structure. Invoking the bow of a ship, the new extension's façade is covered in a mix of both transparent and opaque triangular panels that allow for plenty of sunlight to enter the space while also providing shade to ensure comfortable working conditions.