Zaha Hadid: pushing the engineering envelope

Simon Fullalove, ICE Proceedings editor, highlights how engineers have risen to the challenge of turning Zaha Hadid’s imaginative designs into reality.

Zaha Hadid’s Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre – a showcase for innovative engineering.
Zaha Hadid’s Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre – a showcase for innovative engineering.

Iraqi-born British Architect Zaha Hadid, who sadly died in March aged 65, worked with some of the best engineers in the business to deliver some of the world's most imaginative buildings.

Her pioneering vision and creativity is said to have redefined architecture for the twenty-first century. She won the Pritzker Architectural Prize in 2004 – dubbed 'the Nobel Prize of architecture' – and the RIBA Gold Medal this year. Her London-based practice, set up in 1979, now employs 400 staff working on 950 projects in 44 countries.

Capturing imagination

Certainly Hadid has captured imaginations across the globe. One of her best known projects is the widely acclaimed London Aquatic Centre for the 2012 Olympics, a complex and fluid design engineered by Arup and built by Balfour Beatty.

Other standouts include the 2009 Maxxi museum in Rome, the 2010 Guangzhou Opera House in China and the 2012 Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center in Azerbaijan. They need to be seen to be believed – and are a testament both to Hadid's mathematically inspired creativity and the ingenuity of the engineers who made her visions reality.

Engineers' experiences

Fortunately two teams of engineers have shared their experiences or working on Hadid's projects in the Institution of Civil Engineers' journals. The challenging delivery of the London Aquatics Centre is described in the November 2012 special issue of Civil Engineering, which remains free to download as part of the London 2012 learning legacy.

And in this month's issue, the innovative top-down construction of the 2014 Nanjing International Youth Cultural Centre – a key part of the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics – is explained. Rising up to 315 m, the twin sculpted towers are among the tallest to have been built in both directions at once, resulting in a completion time of just 20 months.

For more information please contact the ICE Proceedings editor Simon Fullalove on, telephone +44 (0)20 8744 2028.