• Zaha: A Biography
    Joseph Giovannini

Islamic Extension, Louvre Competition, Paris, 2008. Digital image. Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha introduces Zaha Hadid (1950–2016) as the head-strong, furniture-designing, untamable child of a socially progressive Iraqi statesman prominent in the 1950s and ‘60s. As a girl and adolescent, she witnessed Iraqi history—and the collapse of its democracy—unfold in her living room. The adult Hadid imported the democratic socialism of her upbringing into her avant-garde practice in London where she cultivated an inclusive public sphere in buildings that have a socializing agenda beneath the aesthetics. The camera saw her early buildings as fragmented and levitated, and the later buildings as fluid, but it overlooked the social content of her democratized spaces, and never revealed just how Hadid and her office conceived these unprecedented buildings. Relating the personal and professional, Zaha delves into her life and office, rooting the development of her complex vision in the character of the vulnerable, smart, shrewd human being—the whole Hadid—who structured an office that, under her leadership, collectively manifested her practice.

An activist critic, Joseph Giovannini has written thousands of articles on architecture, design and urbanism for the New York Times, Art in America, Architect magazine, and The New York Review of Books. He has served as the architecture critic for New York Magazine, The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, and currently The Los Angeles Review of Books, and contributes regularly to Architectural Record and Interior Design. His monumental Architecture Unbound: A Century of the Disruptive Avant-Garde (Rizzoli) was published in 2021. He has been nominated for a Pulitzer in criticism three times. He coined the term “Deconstructivism.” A Yale graduate, Giovannini also has a master’s in French language and literature from Middlebury College, through studies at the Sorbonne, and an MArch from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. He has taught graduate design studios at the Columbia University; Pratt; University of California, Los Angeles; and University of Southern California’s School of Architecture.