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Agatha Odigie: With Zaha Hadid’s Passing Away…Hope For Her Presence At Eko Atlantic City Evaporates?



De Beers Moments In Light Private Dinner - Arrivals - LFW SS16When I sighted him at in the Eko Atlantic City Sales Office Showroom, my heart skipped a couple of beats. The first fluttering of hope stirred in my soul. Dare I conceive the idea? Time would certainly tell, I thought to myself.
You see, ‘him’ happened to be Paolo Zilli of Zaha Hadid Architects – who was one of the keynote speakers at the May 2015 edition of the Lagos Architects Forum LAF. It was the flagship seminar of the Nigerian Institute of Architects Lagos State Chapter. The local architectural community was agog to have Zaha Hadid in our midst, albeit in the form of a representative. On my part, I hoped that perhaps some of the Zaha Hadid magic design ‘twinkle-dust’ would rub off on me!

During the course of the seminar, I had enquired about his views on the Chinese government’s tough stance on the halting of what it had termed ‘weird architecture’. Surely that classification of their major projects in China was a source of worry for Zaha Hadid Architects. This was apparently a non- issue as it had been casually brushed aside as mere propaganda and grandstanding by the Chinese authorities.

Fast forward to Thursday 31th March, 2016 when the local and international architectural design community was greeted with the shocking news of the untimely demise of famous Iraqi-born British architect, Zaha Hadid, from a sudden heart attack at the age of 65.

Now to the uninitiated, Zaha Hadid is to world of architecture what Steve Jobs is to the information technology world- a revolutionary. Aside from being one of the most brilliant contemporary architects with her avant-garde and award winning designs, she was a prolific interior and product designer lending her famous design skills to a seemingly endless array of jewellery, furniture, automobiles, household accessories, footwear. Some of her product designs were showcased as recently as April 2016 at this year’s Milan Design Week and included a metal and crystal table centrepiece for famous crystal brand Swarovski for its debut home ware range.

With a colourful career that spanned over three decades, Zaha Hadid ran a London based architectural design firm of 400 staff. A few of her famous mega-projects include the London Aquatic Center, Straford for the 2012 London Olympics, Guangzhou Opera House in Guangzhou, China, Italian National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome simply referred to as the MAXXI. Others include the Galaxy Soho Complex in China and the 2022 FIFA World Cup Stadium in Qatar. One of my personal favourites, which in my estimation epitomizes the ingenuity of Zaha’s romance with curves is a building characterised by soaring yet softly draped silhouettes, the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, Baku, Azerbaijan, winner of the 2014 Design of the Year by London’s Design Museum. This building was once naughtily described as being “pure and sexy as Marilyn Monroe’s blown skirt”!

In recognition of her immense contributions to architecture, laurels and accolades from both within and outside the profession came pouring in for Zaha. She was a recipient of the 2004 Pritzker Prize, considered to be architecture’s most prestigious award, the profession’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize, being the first female recipient to date to be honoured in her own right. In 2013 Verve Clicquot honoured her as its Business Woman of the Year. In 2008 and 2010 respectively, Times and Forbes magazines listed her amongst their respective 100 Most Influential People lists. The Queen of England’s seal of approval for Zaha Hadid’s service to architecture came in 2012 when she was awarded a DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire). Her last major award was the 2015 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for architecture, again being the first woman to be so honoured in the 167 year history of the award.

Her signature futuristic sinuous, undulating and organic forms which characterized most of her schemes in the later part of her career earned her the sobriquet, Queen of the Curve. Zaha once asked, “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?”
An extraordinary role model for women in the field of architecture, she has been described as brave, radical, strong-willed, and remarkable. Like the proverbial colossus, she bestrode and conquered the male-dominated architectural space, unapologetically breaking barriers. There is no contest that Dame Zaha Hadid DBE left deep indelible marks in the sands of time and has truly earned her bragging rights amongst architecture’s giants.

So one can now fully begin to grasp where my excitement stemmed from and why my entire system went into overdrive when I sighted Paolo Zilli that Saturday in May during the Eko Atlantic project tour as part of LAF’s programme activities. High hopes of a Zaha Hadid project at my ‘backyard’ took root that day. Such a project would have firmly confirmed Eko Atlantic City’s status as the premier location to live, work and play! Alas, that desire seems poised to remain wishful thinking with her demise. But who knows?

Photo Credit: Getty Images


Odigie Agatha is Team Lead, Design and Strategy at VERVEPOINTS, an architecture firm. A chartered architect, she believes that life can be optimized through excellent design. Agatha is hung up on fashion, writing and visual arts. Her work-life mantra is “Huge doors are swung on small hinges”. Visit Follow her on Instagram @agathaodigie and Twitter @Afroagatha. Send her an email via [email protected]


  1. verey

    May 19, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Wow she’s dead?RIP

  2. DocDeola

    May 19, 2016 at 9:21 am

    The news of her passing is still shocking to me. What a woman, a true visionary. She kept going despite opposition, misogynism and racism. Very inspiring.

  3. NIRA

    May 19, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Salute to the Queen of curves!!! Whenever I read about her, I get more determined to succeed in my field. She showed that women can excel in a field dominated by men. May she continue to rest in peace.

  4. NIRA

    May 19, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Salute to the Queen of curves!!! Whenever I read about her, I get more determined to succeed in my field. She showed that women can excel in a field dominated by men. May she continue to rest in peace. I wish she designed and built something in Nigeria.

  5. Niyoola

    May 19, 2016 at 10:56 am

    I expected to see pictures of a couple of buildings she designed; at least those you cited in the article.

    • Yori

      May 19, 2016 at 7:22 pm

      Make google your best friend!

    • Niyoola

      May 19, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      Don’t be silly. She wrote a tribute to Hadid and left out photos of her masterpieces?
      Not good enough.

    • Brenda Unu

      June 10, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Her original post in her blog has the photos. Maybe Bella Naija took them out. You may click on her blog. See link below the writeup.

  6. Anon

    May 19, 2016 at 11:04 am

    Rest in peace Dame. She broke through the glass ceiling.

  7. Tosin

    May 19, 2016 at 11:10 am

    ZHA still up-and-running so…
    So glad I got to ‘know’ her. Extraordinary, the kind of b* you don’t forget in a hurry, my kind of gal, lol.
    Bosswoman, what d’you think I meant? 😀

  8. Bridget

    May 19, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Station!!! Nice one. Well researched. She was an outstanding person. She was very original and could be regarded as arrogant. But who can blame her? With those out of the world designs and standing out in an arena dominated by men. She was an enigma!

  9. Atukpa!

    May 19, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Rip Ma’am .I got to know about her when she was featured on CNN. She broke through a lot of societal barriers . Beauty and brains .

  10. James

    May 19, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Zaha truly was a fantastic architect. But to go and say that because of her passing Eko Atlantic has less chances to confirm it’s position as the ultimate location is funny.

    Just set foot there, and you will see the level of infrastructure is far beyond the rest of the region.

    Some of the architects used there are as good, and some possibly better than Zaha Hadid (God bless her soul).

    Don’t worry, Eko Atlantic will outshine competing cities, and will do so faster once we all start supporting as opposed to criticising a development that is for once very positive.

    • Brenda Unu

      June 10, 2016 at 1:34 pm

      You miss the point James….. Eko Atlantic is a great city still budding. What the writer is trying to point out is “how much more wonderful it would be if we could site one of the Famous Zaha Hadid’s works there?”. I think there’s no lack of patriotism there.

  11. Brenda Unu

    June 10, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Wonderful piece as usual Agatha! Zaha Hadid is truly an enigma and a worthy role model not just for female architects but for all females! She lives on in her works!

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