Zaha Hadid, Designer of London Olympic Aquatics Centre, Dies at 65

Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the designer of the 2012 London Olympic Aquatic Centre, has died in a Miami hospital.

The 65-year old was the head of her own architecture firm and was born in raised in Baghdad before attending the American University of Beirut and enrolling in the Architectural Association in London.

Hadid designed the Olympic Aquatic Centre that was referred to as a “stingray,” with a swooping roof bound by the temporary grandstands on either side that resembled large wings.

She also was the designer of the BMW plant in Leipzig, Germany; the Guangzhou Opera House in China; and the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan, among other landmarks.

Her firm was also the designer of the $2 billion stadium proposed as the new Olympic Stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo – a plan that was scrapped after construction (and not design costs, according to the firm) continued to rise.

Among Hadid’s honors was Britain’s Sterling Prize for architecture and the the 2004 Pritzker Prize, the world’s top award for architecture. She became the first ever woman to win the latter of those honors.

According to an article written by Jill Lawless of the Associated Press, “Hadid’s work fused her knowledge of mathematics and embrace of computer technology with soaring imagination and ambition…Her buildings were always talking points, and sometimes controversial. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul was compared by detractors to an ugly spaceship that had made an emergency landing.”

Among Hadid’s designs that she will not see completed are one of the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and the new Iraqi parliament building in her native Baghdad.

Hadid dwas admitted to a hospital in Miami, where she makes her home, earlier this week with a case of bronchitis. She had a heart attack while being treated.

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A lovely lady I was lucky enough to meet when she visited my school in 2011. She had so much time for all of our questions – Even the less serious ones. Humility & grace personified.



Zaha was the subject of a nasty attack in the last 12 months. Professional jealousy or straight out sexist/ethnicist detractors jumped right on the Tokyo decision as if it were something she was responsible for. Then they moved on to blaming her publicly for the labour problems including deaths at the Qatar stadium .

It seemed be be an English campaign & I got the impression from her terse statement it pained her very much. Quite likely she was in sub par health also.

Thanks for publishing this .


Swimming is very lucky to have an Olympic pool designed by Zaha Hadid. With sheer intelligence, willpower and creativity, she broke so many barriers as a Muslim woman competing in a profession dominated by white men. Her work was sculptural, unique and bold. I’m glad the sport of swimming had the opportunity to be affected by such a talent. RIP Zaha.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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