Preventing migrant deaths at Qatar stadium site
"not my duty as an architect" says Zaha Hadid

| 35 comments

Zaha Hadid

News: architects have "nothing to do with the workers" who have died on construction sites in Qatar, according to Zaha Hadid, whose Al Wakrah stadium for the FIFA World Cup 2022 is under construction in the gulf state.

Over 500 Indian migrants and 382 Nepalese nationals have died in the country since it won the right to host the football tournament, according to an investigation into conditions in the Qatari construction industry by British newspaper The Guardian, prompting an outcry from human rights groups across the world.

"It's not my duty as an architect to look at it," Hadid said yesterday at the reopening for her Olympic aquatics centre in London. "I cannot do anything about it because I have no power to do anything about it. I think it's a problem anywhere in the world. But, as I said, I think there are discrepancies all over the world."

Hadid's Al Wakrah stadium is one of five new venues under construction for the tournament but the architect says it is the responsibility of the Qatari government not architects to address issues relating to worker deaths.

"I have nothing to do with the workers," she said. "I think that's an issue the government - if there's a problem - should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved."

Qatar 2022 World Cup Zaha Hadid
Al Wakrah stadium by Zaha Hadid

Asked if she was concerned about the deaths, Hadid commented: "Yes, but I'm more concerned about the deaths in Iraq as well, so what do I do about that? I'm not taking it lightly but I think it's for the government to look to take care of."

The 40,000-seat stadium is currently under construction in Al Wakrah. Its curvaceous form was based on a type of Arabian fishing boat, but the design came under fire shortly after release when critics compared it to a vagina.

Other well-known architects have previously spoken out over conditions for workers in foreign nations. Richard Rogers says that "architects have a responsibility to society", while Daniel Libeskind called on architects to consider whether their projects are "legitimate".

  • Douglas

    She sounds impatient at the question.

  • Douglas

    It’s like, “why are you talking to me about people, let’s talk about shapes”.

    • Drake

      People are shapes. Stop glorifying human limitation.

  • Jordan Elias

    Nice cop out, Zaha. When you’re the principal of a firm, you have the authority to choose your projects. Realizing a major project involves the lives of many people, and it’s beholden upon you – as a principal – to consider them.

    If you can’t condone a country’s human rights abuses, then you shouldn’t do work in that country.

    • Derek_V

      You don’t have a good understanding on how the world works.

  • cubert

    In France, the responsibility of the architect is engaged if any accident happens on a construction site. Anyway… what kind of person is Mrs Hadid? Really, what kind of person could have these words and compare the situation in Iraq to justify the fact she is a sort of egocentric starchitect?

  • tariqjalsai

    She is right. Architects have nothing to do with deaths. Government, engineers, contractors and safety officers must be questioned why.

  • mcmlxix

    An architect choses which clients they design for… especially a starchitect like Hadid. So if your client has a poor reputation, you have material cooperation and a degree of responsibility.

  • Ard Buijsen

    It’s not that difficult. Just refuse to work on projects like that or in countries of where it is known that the working conditions are appalling and people are dying. That would be enough of a statement.

    • amsam

      “Projects like that.” “Countries where it is known…” these criteria are a little vague, don’t you think? I can’t think of a single major architect who hasn’t gone for a bloated government project in a developing country where worker protections are sketchy. So, maybe they should all say “no”, but once again it’s Zaha who gets attacked.

      As someone else said, she badly needs a publicist!

  • JayCee

    As a registered architect in the UK, she has a moral and legal obligation to make best efforts to ensure the operations on site are carried out in a legal and ethical manner. It is not enough to simply wash her hand of the situation. The act of acknowledgement makes her de facto complicit in it perpetration.

    I find it amusing and hypocritical that an architect who so strongly advocates women’s rights in the first world workplace can, at the same time, make such bold and outrageous statements about what is tantamount to worker exploitation, if not slavery, in the third.

  • pet

    Too big of a risk, her insurance won’t cover it :)

  • rachael

    Somehow I can’t see this going well for her. Primary responsibility presumably lies with FIFA – they should never have given the World Cup to Qatar in the first place. But whether you’re running a building project or managing a sandwich bar, surely you have an obligation to ensure the well-being of your workers. A thousand deaths is a thousand too many.

  • pet

    Ethical responsibility is all she has ;)

  • S

    She takes no responsibility whatsoever towards the social and human context in which her buildings are being erected.

    A complete disgrace to architecture.

  • Phil

    Surely FIFA has more responsibility on this issue than Zaha?

  • Dan

    Yeah, right Zaha. Why bite the hand that feeds you?

  • disqus_Rlmd5Kud8R

    All of these self-righteous comments are hilarious. I suppose everyone typing on any computer on this thread should take responsibility for the suicides in the factories where they’re manufactured? Or for the fact that they’re going to watch the world cup on TV, thereby sponsoring FIFA and the Qatari government? You have the power, right, you create the demand. She couldn’t know that 500 people were going to die when she handed in the design now could she. Lazy, digital ethicists.

    • Robin

      Migrant worker safety is hardly a new issue in countries like Qatar so in answer to your rhetorical question – yes, she should have known that this sort of thing would happen. People should be more ethical in their buying habits but this is an odd defence for accepting a commission for a vanity project that has directly killed hundreds of people.

  • Derek_V

    Nice Goodwins here.

  • AD

    Actually that’s rubbish. In the UK architects are responsible for worker safety under CDM Regs (Health and Safety at Work Act). She would absolutely be held responsible here so what she’s saying is when working abroad she’s absolved of the the normal obligations that are a necessity of the profession.

  • Erik Pye

    Attack the artist. That’s easier than doing something about it.

  • Gwen

    What a cynical point of view! She doesn’t need a public relation consultant, she just needs a conscience!

  • dick_c

    I think she is correct. These deaths are not her legal responsibility. It would be different if people working directly for her were dying.

    That said, as the architect, she is in a unique position to put pressure on those who are responsible to effect changes that would save lives.

  • evolutionofnonsense

    Good thing sport has nothing to do with politics :-/

  • Stephan

    Incredible how one can close their eyes with this ease. Apparently Zaha Hadid is more concerned with consolidating her position as slave of her contractors, rather than taking the benefit of the position she has to have any influence at all on the working conditions of those who have to bent to her curves.

    This does give a funny taste to the iconic buildings produced from her hands. Surely, for the family of the deceased workers, this will become an icon of reluctance. Simply tasteless.

    • Derek_V

      You live in a fantasy land. Zaha can’t do anything about the worker’s conditions in other countries. Her stating so makes her more honest.

  • Meliza Ng

    It’s all about money.

    • Craig

      Absolutely. It’s about how she can make the most money. It always comes down to money.

  • k2basecamp01 .

    Stop blaming every damn thing on the architect! I notice all the postings condemning her are actually from people who don’t realise the actual state of architectural practice in the real world.

  • cubert

    Except that Bansky’s work is political.

  • ch

    It´s your duty as a human being.

  • DimitrisK

    Let me get this straight. So if her kids are in school and their life is in danger, their teachers can also claim it’s not their duty to save lives?

    Since many people find this attitude to be proper, I will reconsider my duty as a teacher. I promise I will refrain from any other duty during my classes and I expect all of you to show similar understanding. Thank you.

  • Mikey

    This is rich: “I think it’s a problem anywhere in the world.” No it’s not.

    As a leader in the world of architecture, you *do* have an influence on other architects and the world. You actually have a voice that will be heard, and can action things.

    Appalling.

  • mohammed fetto

    Total agree with her. You’re an architect, you sell a design, DONE. You don’t have to go check if people commit to safety regulations. It’s the job of someone else!

    Blaming Zaha is very childish. I guess those have never worked in the field.