Dezeen Magazine

Zaha Hadid sues critic over book review

News: Zaha Hadid has filed a law suit against the New York Review of Books and architecture critic Martin Filler after allegedly defamatory comments about her attitude to migrant workers were published as part of a book review.

Hadid filed the complaint with the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan yesterday, claiming that Martin Filler had falsely implied that she did not care about the working conditions of migrant workers on her projects in the Middle East.

Filler's comments were made in a review of Rowan Moore's Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture titled The Insolsence of Architecture, which was published on June 5. At time of writing it was still available to subscribers online on the New York Review of Books website.

Hadid, who became the first female architect to receive the Pritzker Prize in 2004, is seeking damages from the New York Review of Books and a full retraction, as well as an immediate injunction on the review.

"Mr. Filler wrote a review of a 370-page book on architecture in which Ms. Hadid's name is mentioned in fewer than 20 pages. Mr. Filler's book review, by contrast, mentions Ms. Hadid in nearly two-thirds of its paragraphs," said a statement from BakerHostetler, the law firm who filed the complaint on behalf of Hadid.

"Nearly all of those references are used to call our client’s success into question or to characterise her personality as difficult. It is a personal attack disguised as a book review and has exposed Ms. Hadid to public ridicule and contempt, depriving her of confidence and injuring her good name and reputation," the statement continued.

The complaint also states that Filler had taken comments made by Hadid earlier this year about the deaths of migrant workers in Qatar out of context.

It says that Filler singled out and accused Hadid of "not taking responsibility and showing no concern" for alleged worker deaths on her own project for the Qatar 2022 World Cup – the Al Wakrah Stadium – which had not started on site when the comments were made.

Zaha Hadid's design for the Al Wakrah Stadium – one of the new venues being built for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

"As of June 2014, the date of publication of Mr. Filler’s article, only a few weeks of the initial stages of enabling works had begun on the Al Wakrah site, with construction set to begin in 2015," said Oren Warshavsk, a partner at BakerHostetler.

"There have been no worker deaths at the Al Wakrah site."

Hadid's statements were made at a press conference for the reopening of her Olympic swimming pool in London in February.

Asked about conditions on construction projects for the Qatar World Cup, Hadid said that it was responsibility of the Qatari government not architects to address issues relating to worker deaths.

"It's not my duty as an architect to look at it," said Hadid. "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."

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

The New York Review of Books did not respond to requests for further comment.

In his review, Filler wrote: "neither Moore nor I have any compunction about biting the hands that feed us".

The dispute comes in the wake of a wave of controversy over the decision by London's Design Museum to award Hadid's Heydar Aliyev Centre in Azerbaijan – a country with a poor human rights record.