Zaha Hadid is "resentful and wronged" says Stephen Bayley

Design critic Stephen Bayley has attacked architect Zaha Hadid, describing her as aggressive, intractable and bitter.

Writing for The Spectator last week, Bayley rounded on Hadid after she terminated a BBC radio interview when the interviewer questioned her about problems with her stadium projects in Tokyo and Qatar.

"Listeners may have formed opinions of their own about Hadid's intractable views, aggressive demeanour, lack of charm and ocean-going bitterness," Bayley wrote. "Hadid feels resentful and wronged."

Bayley, who founded the Design Museum in London, accused Hadid and fellow starchitects of deliberately creating buildings that ignore their context, have "questionable functionality" and are usually over budget.

Under the headline "Zaha Hadid's aggressive performance on Today confirms why architecture would be better off without her," Bayley also criticised Hadid for working for dictators.

"Her latest buildings always win approval from supine architecture and design media, so work very well as salvation-via-design for repressive regimes," he wrote.

Bayley referred to criticisms that Hadid's now-abandoned design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, "was conceived with neither respect nor reference to its locality".

"That, of course, was almost certainly her intention," Bayley wrote.

Zaha Hadid's Qatar 2022 World Cup stadium
Zaha Hadid's Qatar 2022 World Cup stadium

This approach is endemic among globe-trotting architects, Bayley said. "'Global Architects' like Hadid do not want to respect their client or his site, but to venerate themselves."

"Critics mumbled that she had no sense of context or locality, preferring to crash land photogenic concepts whose function was not to serve her client's needs, but to advertise her own status as a 'global architect'," he continued.

"Her fabulous, zoomorphic forms were always eye-catching, but often difficult to build. And almost always, so neglectful was she of tectonic practicalities, that her buildings went deliriously over-budget."

The article concluded: "With budgets out-of-control, questionable functionality, ludicrous 'featurism' and an intemperate and headstrong personality, Zaha Hadid has, alas, confirmed many popular prejudices about architecture and architects. She may also have, damagingly, confirmed prejudices about what happens when a woman is scorned."

Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium by Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid Architects failed to secure a construction company for its Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium

Hadid terminated her BBC Radio 4 interview with Sarah Montague on 24 September – the day the architect was named as the recipient of the 2014 Royal Gold Medal for architecture. The interview turned sour after Montague asked about alleged deaths at Hadid's Al-Wakrah stadium for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Hadid denied the claim and the BBC later apologised for the way the interview was conducted.

Stephen Bayley founded the Design Museum in 1989, and is the author of books including Ugly: The Aesthetics Of Everything and Harley Earl And The Dream Machine. He was previously the design critic for the Observer newspaper and is now a regular contributor to The Spectator.

Portrait of Zaha Hadid is by Steve Double.