Zaha Hadid's Acceptance Speech

​June 24, 2006

First of all, it's a great honor for me and a pleasure to be here, and being here brings up many, mostly great memories. But, as some of you may know, I have relatives here and friends, and it's always a great pleasure to be here...

I was lucky to be brought up by a really fantastic family in a moment in Iraq's history when the idea of progress was in the forefront of our thinking; in the 60s. Both my mother and father encouraged me, to say the least, to be extreme...I was always kind of difficult to sometimes handle...

I never thought it would be this difficult. I remember a member of my family told me to "give up on this architecture story; you'll never make it"...I didn't even understand what it was. Is it because I'm a woman? Is it because I'm an Arab? Is it because I was strange? I had no idea which of the three...

I went to London...to an extreme school...and there, with the help of the chairman of the school, a fantastic educator...was really interested in the kind of ideas of progress. In that school, there were two convergent ideologies of architecture: one was modernity -modernism as repetitive, mass-produced objects or pieces...but also the ideology that the 20th century provided places for society to...and also the idea of making a new world...

I still am hoping that in Beirut the idea of progress will eventually emerge...because I think it's a fantastic city. Every time I came here since the war, 4 or 5 times, I always wanted to find Bab Idriss. And I couldn't find it because it has been totally erased from the memory of the place. I think...the complexity of the city...and the way it constantly turns on itself in the downtown that it became a maze; the distances were very different than they are now....

The downtown should not really be dealt with as if it is a factory building...I still think there is a chance we can actually invent the spaces again...

I have been supported and helped by many, many people. Architecture is different than many other fields. You rely on the inventions of others and the help of others. It's a kind of teamwork. In a sense, it is very interesting because you have to constantly delegate but at the same time bring all these ideas together...

In an interview with a Lebanese television [station], I was constantly asked whether it's luck or fate, my success, and I always said it's hard work. I say that because today is a graduating day for many students. And I say it particularly for women architects...men and women have to work much harder, not because we have to prove ourselves...it requires invention, like scientists, to unleash or discover so many things that were completely [unknown]...

Luck is mostly hard work and also it is important to be able to enjoy it. Architecture is about wellbeing; that you can make space which makes others feel good, like hospitals or schools or housing.

This journey has been very exciting for me, but obviously very hard because I'm jetlagged and everyone wants to bargain with me, which is particular in the Arab world. But it's ok...

I'd like to say it's very fantastic...