Zaha bolts BBC interview

Zaha Hadid on BBC Radio 4 “Today” show. (Guardian)

And who can blame her? Zaha Hadid was asked to explain the deaths of construction workers at the site of her vagina-like stadium in Qatar for the 2022 World Soccer Cup. At the time the charge of hundreds of deaths was lodged by human-rights groups, Hadid’s project was not yet in construction.

Proposed stadium in Qatar.

Proposed stadium in Qatar.

Critic Martin Filler last year repeated in the New York Review of Books the claim that workers had died building her stadium. She sued and won, and he apologized. I had repeated the claim, too, but I was below her radar so she didn’t sue me. I apologized anyway. Yet I do not retract my claim that as a celebrity architect she is part of a group of individuals who have done massive harm to the world, harm worthy of their being brought, collectively, before an international tribunal at The Hague.

Hadid protested the BBC “presenter” Sarah Montague’s claim that workers had died on her stadium construction site. I can’t believe that Montague was unaware of its falsity. Qatar says there still have been no deaths at that site, but does not deny that workers have died in other construction related to soccer and development projects spun off from the upcoming event.

But Hadid walked out of the interview, understandably, when the interviewer moved on to the issue of Japan dropping her Olympic stadium project earlier this year because of massive cost overruns. The interviewer asked her to explain and then told her to hurry up because time was running out. I can’t blame Hadid for cutting short the interview.

The Guardian story by Jessica Elgot, “Zaha Hadid cuts short BBC Today programme interview,” links to the radio interview by BBC’s Montague and accurately describes why Hadid walked off the set. Elgot says many are defending Hadid, as they did, and rightly so, after the claim of deaths on her Qatar stadium site had been refuted. But the interview shows how Hadid tries to weasel out of answering embarrassing questions. Still, the interviewer can be criticized for allowing her own incompetence to let Hadid off the hook. At least Montague did not try to trip Zaha as she fled the set!

Hadid is a jackass but the interviewer was rude and incompetent. I don’t blame Zaha for cutting the interview short. I blame her for her architecture.

By the way, Hadid today was awarded a gold medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects, which says a lot more about RIBA – although it is entirely predictable – than it does about her. Dame Zaha indeed!

Here is my post “In defense of Zaha?” in which I apologize to her. And I leave you with a quote from my earliest post on her insensitive reaction to news of construction worker deaths, which I do not apologize for:

I think almost any modern architect would have responded the same way as Hadid, and that the willingness to inflict such ugliness and sterility on a hapless world suggests an essential deficit in the makeup of the character of the profession as it is constituted today, at least at the level of the celebrity architect.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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