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Zaha Hadid is the most famous woman architect in the world. Would women or, indeed, architecture, be better off without her pushily hard-won, global celebrity?
She established her studio in London in 1980. For nearly 14 years Hadid, absurdly, became famous for not having built anything. Her reputation was boosted by a clique of fawning admirers who saw in her uncompromising angles and, later, zoomorphic blobs a fearless repudiation of stuffy tradition.
The competition entry for Cardiff Opera House was her celebrated cause. This, with genius, managed to alienate both the left and the right. The former thought it elitist, the latter outrageous. It was, after years of well-publicised struggle, abandoned in 1995. She became a martyr to taste and sexism.
Hadid’s first real building emerged in 1993. This was a tiny fire station in a Swiss-German furniture factory whose shrieking concrete angles and disruptive interiors photographed very well and were dutifully recorded in the magazines, but were not much liked by the firemen. It was decommissioned and is now an exhibition centre. […]