Is Zaha Hadid’s prize political or about property?

Photo: Dezeen

The Heyday Aliyev centre in Azerbaijan has been described by judges as the “pinnacle moment” of Hadid’s career, which has already seen the starchitect design everything from Olympic stadiums to luxury yachts. The building, which contains a museum and an auditorium, features Zaha’s typical characteristics: swooping curves and an almost fluid sense of space.

“As pure and sexy as Marilyn’s blown skirt,” one juror (of CZWG Architects) declared.

Nonetheless, the development was reportedly only possible through forced evictions of local residents from the site, a process backed by the capital of oil companies.

“The government has pursued a programme of illegal expropriation and forced eviction across the city, without proper compensation of its residents,” Giorgi Giorgia of Human Rights Watch warned in a report.

“I have nothing to do with the workers,” Hadid told The Guardian in February, when another of her projects – a World Cup stadium for Qatar – won controversy for its number of migrant worker deaths, as well as its distinctive female shape.

“I think that’s an issue the government – if there’s a problem – should pick up. It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.”

There are others who disagree, though, with architecture critic Owen Hatherlay tweeting that it is a “good thing people are angry architect doesn’t care about slaves making their buildings”.

Indeed, the realms of politics and architecture may appear distinctly separate, but one is needed to achieve the other, both financially and practically.

The Design Museum in London, though, has defended its decision to award its prize to Hadid.

“It’s a prize about architecture rather than politics and its architectural quality is outstanding,” Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic told Dezeen.

“The jury made a decision on what they thought was the best project. I support that decision but I played no part in making it.”

What do you think? Is it right to award an architecture prize to a project that involved forced evictions? Should prizes be about politics or property?