Zaha Hadid slams "misogynist behaviour"
in UK architecture


Zaha Hadid photo by Steve Double

News: Zaha Hadid has railed against the UK's "misogynist" attitude towards women architects after a survey of women in the profession found nearly a third knew they were paid less than their male counterparts for the same job.

Hadid, a former winner of both the Stirling Prize and the Pritzker Prize, told the Observer newspaper she found it "difficult" to work in the UK. "They are very conservative," she said. "There is a scepticism and more misogynist behaviour here. Although, while there were people against me, there were also people living here who were incredibly supportive."

She also rejected the idea that things are getting better for women architects. "I doubt anything has changed much over the last 30 years," she said, later adding: "In my view the changes within RIBA [Royal Institute of British Architects] are nonexistent."

Hadid, whose best-known projects include the Aquatics Centre for the London 2012 Olympics and the MAXXI museum in Rome, said it is often assumed that women are better suited to designing houses, public buildings and leisure centres rather than large-scale commercial projects. "I am sure that as a woman I can do a very good skyscraper," she said. "I don't think it is only for men."

"It is a very tough industry and it is male-dominated, not just in architectural practices, but the developers and the builders too," she added, noting that childcare issues often hold women back from the top jobs in the industry. "I can't blame the men, though. The problem is continuity. Society has not been set up in a way that allows women to go back to work after taking time off."

Hadid's remarks were prompted by research carried out by the Architects' Journal into the status of women in the profession. Nearly two thirds of respondents said they had experienced sexual discrimination in the workplace, while 61% thought clients in the building industry did not fully accept the authority of female architects.

Last month construction began on Hadid's planned extension to a centre for studying Middle Eastern culture at the University of Oxford.

Earlier this year we reported that developers in Chongqing had copied the designs for Hadid's planned Wangjing Soho complex in Beijing, with the two projects now racing to be completed first.

See all architecture by Zaha Hadid »

  • Bouchra

    Well said!

  • Archstu.

    Such a shame. I think that once the current generation of principles (aged 50-80) moves on we’ll see some change.

  • Concerned Citizen

    That’s the problem with blank surveys. One assumes that everything is equal. Whether it’s men or women, not all are performing the same, regardless of their capabilities.

  • CPR

    Here is an architect who has seen amazing things come her way the past decade, through the financial crisis, and yet she still finds it appropriate to complain about things not being fair?

    I feel sorry for the female architects who are in fact having a hard time time right now because there is no case being made by her majesty Zaha. I always thought that the work done by Zaha’s studio was splendid, but the minute a person goes on record for something not being fair when that person has received some of the best commissions in the world, it shows very little class. Stop complaining, start doing and move on!

    • Sam

      But would anyone listen to the average female architect’s voice otherwise? I think Hadid realizes that the clout she has will cause people to listen to an issue that would otherwise be ashamedly ignored.

      And Hadid’s success doesn’t mean that she has not faced any prejudice either. It’s just one case of a woman succeeding in spite of it.

  • Lohen Grinn

    Hmmm. It doesn’t look like Zaha is doing very well in commanding respect from a misogynist (and architecturally-sceptical) population as a woman architect herself. Oh well.

  • sfxx

    Yeah and minorities are at the bottom of that heap. But that topic’s not even recognised for discussion.

  • unemployed architect

    Nice to throw in a bit of blatant publicity now and then. What, current commissions aren’t enough?!

  • Haza Dahid

    I loved working at ZHA, and I still love her work. However, it is no secret that ZHA pays the smallest salaries in London. At least she is an equal opportunity underpayer, and argues for shared long hours and underpay.

  • CPMW

    Women in architectural practices are subject to the worst sexist behavior coming from clients, private and commercial. Current culture means one has to smile and accept this to ensure the practice maintains face and its work flow.

  • Tracker

    In 2011:

    Fosters+ Partners – 31% architects are female
    Aedas – 27% architects are female
    Allies and Morrisons – 33% architects are female
    BDP – 23% architects are female
    Zaha Hadad Architects – 27% architects are female

    Not really trend-setting.

  • JayCee

    Well, since the UK average for female architects is currently around 17%, you could argue that there is some quite significant positive discrimination at work.

  • Hexi

    Well, what can we say? She’s Zaha and she’s got a point.

  • I am surprised to hear that someone does not like her complaint. She is busy but she works hard and under pressure from the male-dominated industry, why can’t she complain?