Letter From Home: The passing of a ‘giant’ of design


I was shocked to learn of the death of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid on Thursday at the age of 65.

This Iraq-born designer was one of the true stars of the profession. She was known for bending the rules of what a building should look like. She was all about the curves.

Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker, in 2004, died of a heart attack while being treated for bronchitis in a Miami hospital. She has a major project underway in the Magic City — a curvy, sense-stirring condominium called 1000 Museum north of downtown Miami.

The developer tweeted: “We are extremely honored to have known and worked with Zaha and we will continue to honor her vision.”

As one of the most famous architects in the world, she influenced thousands of people in the profession.

Sarasota architect Michael Halflants, who also teaches at the University of South Florida, called her “a giant of contemporary architecture. With a variety of buildings, she pushed the envelope, and I think it is a great loss.

“She was often controversial, but on the other hand, she looked at the location where she was designing and was very conscious of the surroundings.”

Halflants praised Hadid’s “unique way of coming up with designs,” a process that started with paintings or dynamic drawings. “It is one thing about to think about a strong concept, and it is another thing to be able to develop that concept all the way to a finished building with all its detail, at full scale, without losing any of the design intent.”

Halflants said architecture is still not a diverse profession, and “it was great to have a woman at the forefront of design.”

“The impact of her work as been impressive,” said Tatiana White, a newly licensed Sarasota architect. “What a bad loss for architecture. She was very empowering in the ways she took the architecture field. She blurred the lines ... architecture could be more than straight lines. I am totally blown away by this.”

Fort Myers architect Joyce Owens, who is, as was Hadid, a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, said Hadid had a reputation of being difficult to work for.

Owens once had a practice in England, and architects would come to her asking for jobs because of Hadid’s nature.

“I formulated an idea of this woman in my head. Then I went to her exhibit at the Guggenheim ... it was huge. The work was so prolific and so exquisite and so beautiful. It just made me realize how hard she had to work to get where she was. I gained huge respect for her after I saw that. People realized how capable and how good she was.”

"She was perhaps the most powerful woman in architecture there ever was, in addition to being one of the most influential architects of the 20th and early 21st centuries," said Martin Gold, director of CityLab Sarasota.  "I doubt there is an architecture student or architect who living that has not studied her work.  Her passing at such a prime age for the great architects is a tremendous cultural loss."

Halflants went to a Hadid lecture at Harvard, and the room was full. Video was set up in an adjacent lecture hall, and that filled up, too.

“In the architectural world, she was a star.”


The Center for Architecture Sarasota is seeking donations of 2-century modern furnishings in good condition for “The Modern Show,” to be held May 13-14.

“We do need more” items, said Sandra Timpson Motto, CFAS board member. “More is better.”

Board chair Cindy Peterson originated the idea of The Modern Show to celebrate 20th-century furniture, home accessories and art pieces. Items will be sold on May 14 at the McCulloch Pavilion, 265 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota, as a CFAS fundraiser. It is not an auction.

Donors should contact Cheryl Gaddie at cheryl@cfasrq.org or 941-350.5430.


The Sarasota Architectural Foundation has scheduled a “Spring House Tour and Cocktail Party” from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21, at an Oyster Bay house designed in the 1950s by the late Jack West.

The house has been restored and updated and is listed for sale at $1.5 million through Kim and Michael Ogilvie of Michael Saunders & Co.

Information on the SAF event is online at SarasotaArchitecturalFoundation.org.


Harold Bubil

Recipient of the 2015 Bob Graham Architectural Awareness Award from the American Institute of Architects/Florida-Caribbean, Harold Bubil is real estate editor of the Herald-Tribune Media Group. Born in Newport, R.I., his family moved to Sarasota in 1958. Harold graduated from Sarasota High School in 1970 and the University of Florida in 1974 with a degree in journalism. For the Herald-Tribune, he writes and edits stories about residential real estate, architecture, green building and local development history. He also is a photographer and public speaker. Contact him via email, or at (941) 361-4805.
Last modified: April 1, 2016
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