Dezeen Magazine

BBC apologises to Zaha Hadid over Radio 4 interview

The BBC has apologised to Zaha Hadid after the architect cut short a live radio interview over poorly researched questions.

Radio 4's Today programme has issued a correction on its website and has sent a personal apology to Zaha Hadid following the interview with presenter Sarah Montague yesterday morning, which rapidly turned sour.

The apology, seen by Dezeen, said that Today – which has previously been guest edited by Hadid – had not intended to upset the architect and admitted that the latter section of the interview had been less than ideal.

Montague mistakenly said that there had been 1,200 deaths on Hadid's Al Wakrah stadium project in Qatar for the 2022 Fifa World Cup. This number was based on a report from the International Trade Union Council (ITUC), which referred to deaths of migrant workers across the entire country since it won the bid to host the football event and not to Hadid's project.

An angry Hadid told Montague there had been no deaths on her project and that she should check her facts.

Zaha Hadid's Al Wakrah stadium in Qatar
Zaha Hadid's Al Wakrah stadium is currently under construction in Qatar

"I have to put you right. There's not a single problem in our stadium in Qatar," said Hadid. "There's no deaths on our site whatsoever."

In a correction issued on its website, the BBC said it hadn't "made clear" the distinction.

"The ITUC's figure of 1,200 construction deaths which was quoted on this programme refers to the whole of Qatar, and not specifically to the main World Cup stadium site," it said.

"We are sorry we didn't make this clear in this morning's interview with Dame Zaha Hadid. We are happy to accept there is no evidence of deaths at the main stadium site."

Following this segment of questioning, Montague turned to the architect's battle to win back the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium project. She asked the architect to explain the issues with the project, which Hadid has described as a "scandal" after her competition-winning design was scrapped by the Japanese prime minster.

Hadid and Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei abandoned their attempt to enter a new design and build competition for the project earlier this month after failing to find a construction partner.

But Montague interrupted Hadid's answer, prompting the architect to cut short the interview.

"Don't ask me a question if you can't let me finish it, then I won't say anything," said Hadid.

Tokyo National Stadium latest images by Zaha Hadid Architects Japan
Zaha Hadid Architects and Nikken Sekkei were forced to give up on their bid to win back the Tokyo National Stadium project

Hadid had been invited to take part in the programme after she was named the recipient of this year's Royal Institute of British Architects' Royal Gold Medal – making her the first woman to be awarded the medal in her own right.

One Dezeen commenter, Paul B, described the Today interview as "shoddy and sensationalist".

"She's not a politician, she's someone who has just been awarded a very prestigious medal for her architectural achievements and if I were her I'd have felt disappointed and ambushed by the unconstructive tone and line of questioning," he wrote.