Celebrating and Honoring Dame Zaha Hadid

Mahdi Amjad announcing the Zaha Hadid / Omniyat Fellowship Fund at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Mahdi Amjad announcing the Zaha Hadid / Omniyat Fellowship Fund at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Photo credit: Zara Tzanev

This year, the global design community mourned the passing of Dame Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), the first female recipient of both the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004) and the RIBA Gold Medal (2016). As her untimely passing saddened friends, clients, and admirers, her legacy inspired the GSD to find a way to celebrate her extraordinary contributions to the field of design.

To this end, the GSD is delighted to announce the establishment of the Zaha Hadid / Omniyat Fellowship Fund at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, a tribute to Hadid’s work, her life, and her legacy. The Zaha Hadid / Omniyat Fellowship Fund will provide financial aid to qualifying students who are enrolled in the Master in Architecture program at the GSD and who are citizens or residents of the Middle East and North Africa region.

“I am delighted that we are able to celebrate the achievements of Zaha Hadid as one of our generation’s most creative architects,” says Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, “Her legacy will inspire a new cohort of talented designers who will hopefully aspire to change the world as much as she did.”

Mahdi Amjad, a friend of the GSD and the Executive Chairman and Founder of Omniyat, one of the Middle East’s leading real estate development firms, established the fellowship fund.  Amjad, who founded Omniyat in 2005 with the vision of shaping Dubai’s skyline through iconic design, hired Hadid in 2007 to design Omniyat’s flagship property, The Opus, in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa District.

It is through the Zaha Hadid/Omniyat Fellowship that I hope other great creative minds in the Middle East can develop to design and build the next generation of inspirational buildings that provide unique experiences for all that touch them.
-Mahdi Amjad, Executive Chairman and Founder of Omniyat

“When I established Omniyat in Dubai in 2005, I was motivated by my desire to develop uncompromising creative signature buildings,” said Amjad. “I was fortunate enough to have worked for over ten years with my dear friend and design mentor Dame Zaha Hadid on the creation of our flagship Opus Building in the heart of Dubai. It is through the Zaha Hadid/Omniyat Fellowship that I hope other great creative minds in the Middle East can develop to design and build the next generation of inspirational buildings that provide unique experiences for all that touch them.”

Patrik Schumacher, Elia Zenghelis, Xin Zhang, “Zaha Hadid: A Celebration”

Mahdi Amjad shares his memories of working with Zaha Hadid. Photo credit: Zara Tzanev

Hadid was a design innovator whose pioneering work—including the Aquatic Center for the London Olympics, the Broad Art Museum in East Lansing, Michigan, and the Guangzhou Opera House in China—defies convention. Hadid taught at the GSD in 1986 as a Design Critic in Architecture, and then again in 1994 as Kenzō Tange Visiting Professor of Architecture. Hadid last spoke at the School in 2013, when she shared projects from her 400-person London-based office and reminisced about her time teaching at the GSD.

Hadid’s professional partner Patrik Schumacher, who joined Zaha Hadid Architects in 1988 while still an architecture student, said: “For me, Zaha Hadid totally transformed the meaning of architectural design: she turned design into an adventure of discovery with previously unimaginable degrees of freedom. Yet, there is nothing arbitrary within her work. It was always principled and pursued to perfection. Her legacy will live on in us, as well as in so many of her inspired followers.”

Patrik Schumacher, Elia Zenghelis, Xin Zhang, “Zaha Hadid: A Celebration”

From left: Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, Mahdi Amjad, Patrik Schumacher, Xin Zhang, and Elia Zenghelis at “Zaha Hadid: A Celebration.” Photo credit: Zara Tzanev

The announcement of the Fellowship was made following the October 25th GSD public lecture “Zaha Hadid: A Celebration,” which focused on the extraordinary contributions of Zaha Hadid as an architect. Elia Zenghelis, one of Hadid’s early teachers, shared his reflections on Zaha both as a student and as an internationally recognized architect. Schumacher discussed their collaboration and the shifts over the years in the direction of the practice’s design approach. Zenghelis and Schumacher also shared a conversation with Xin Zhang, Hadid’s close friend and client, whose company SOHO China commissioned several of her significant projects.

The Zaha Hadid / Omniyat Fellowship is anticipated to be awarded in the Spring 2017 semester and will be administered via the GSD’s admissions and financial aid process.


Watch Zaha Hadid’s lecture at Harvard GSD in 2013.

Watch “Zaha Hadid: A Celebration” with Patrik Schumacher, Elia Zenghelis, Xin Zhang.