Zaha Hadid

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Credit: Steve Double
The New York Times has dubbed her "A Diva for the Digital Age" while others simply describe her as architecture's biggest rock star. Zaha Hadid's designs feature smooth, fluid forms and bring to mind the future as imagined by George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry and sci-fi nerds everywhere. Like all great architecture, these aren't just buildings but works of art, and the success of her recent careerspanning show at London's Design Museum is further proof. Born in Baghdad but living in London for the past three decades, Hadid earned early praise in her career, particularly for her design of Hong Kong's Peak Club in 1983. In 2004, she was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Award, often dubbed the Nobel of architecture, which annually honors a living architect "whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture." Despite her collection of international awards, she's also been called a "paper architect" due to the infrequency in which her designs are actually built. But those that did move off the blueprint—most notably Cincinnati's Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art and the BMW factory in Leipzig, Germany (which sees the assembly line weave through the actual offices)—are as breathtaking as any artistic rendering. More recently the frequency of realized designs has greatly increased, with projects like the Maggie's Centre (a cancer patient clinic) in Kirkaldy, Scotland, the Civil Courts of Justice in Madrid, the Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre, the Guangzhou Opera House in China, Dubai's Dancing Towers and more. In her hometown of London alone she's got five pending projects, including the Olympic Aquatic Centre for the 2012 Games.

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