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


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".

  • 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.

  • Mitch

    We all need to remember that she is not an architect, she designs fashion in the form of buildings.

  • Terence Lee

    So if her building was built by slave labour, she would be okay with that? Architects take credit for their built buildings, not just the drawings they create. By association, the architect is responsible for the method by which their design was constructed.

  • nic

    She’s right and wrong. Of course she has some form of power, she just does not want to upset the paymasters!

  • cubert

    Except that Bansky’s work is political.

  • T Vegad

    Don’t misquote her. Don’t read between lines. All she says is that she is powerless to take action in this regard. Worker deaths in the middle-east is a much larger issue. And its not design related. Why just ask her about it? Why not all the others who are actually responsible? What are the people asking these questions doing about it themselves?

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • Gary Walmsley

    Wow, that’s cold. Really cold. Though she is probably correct, a compassionate human being would have NEVER said it like that. She’s a talented architect but a cold person.

  • Captain Obvious

    Buildings are being built all over the world, sometimes with an architect, sometimes without one. Architects are concerned about the built realm and the people in it.

    Each new building is a chance to re-imagine the experience the occupants might have, to design a vessel that fosters creativity, exploration, connection and gives people that live and work within its walls greater opportunity toward a higher quality of experience. As it should, this desire for improvement often clashes with choices owner’s or developers make. A balance is struck to ensure a great building meets a difficult budget.

    When a project finally goes out to bid to multiple construction teams, often the architect will advise which team to go with, though their choice is not always respected. Fortunately or unfortunately, at that point, the project is handed off to the selected team that must build according to the standards of the law.

    Should we shame the architect about why they are not actively soliciting governing bodies to change the laws of construction and safety? That’s a full-time job isn’t it? Aren’t some architectural bodies already working on this? Should we deny the opportunity for something great to be built? Certainly if lives are being lost. Thankfully that’s an opportunity to add “letters” to the law that are missing. Should the architects be blamed for burgeoning cities and societies that are in the process of creating those laws, sometimes confronting them for the first time?

    Even highly developed places are ever evolving laws that provide standards for construction and safety. I’m one for the squeaky wheel, but it’s clear it should be focused on adopting policy concerning construction and safety.

  • steph

    Coming in a little late to the discussion, but I couldn’t read this and NOT comment! The way I see it, maybe Zaha doesn’t have any legal standing with how the construction is managed, I don’t know enough about all that to say. But, with a name and reputation as big as hers, she wouldn’t NEED the legal standing to begin making a fuss.

    She has enough social pull to talk to the right people (like getting her voice out through this article) to actually get the message across that those construction conditions are WRONG, she could start spreading the word and building awareness. She could have led a movement to fight for better working conditions, and she absolutely had the power to do something about it.