This is how Zaha Hadid once designed. The opera house building from the 1990s.

Her designs are among the most recognisable in the world. We publish the concept that Zaha Hadid drew up early in her career. The Cardiff Opera House was supposed to be built in the late 1990s. It never came to fruition.

Design work on the building of a new opera house lasted from 1994 to 1996. Cardiff, the capital of Wales, was to have a modern opera house that would bring the city into the approaching 21st century. The authorities invited the then fledgling but highly original Zaha Hadid to prepare the design.

The architect was born in 1950 in Baghdad (she died in 2016 in Miami). Her first famous project was the 1983 leisure and recreation centre The Peak Club in Hong Kong. The centre, however, was never built. Another was a 1986 project for an intimate building on a difficult, narrow plot at Ku’damma in Berlin and an opera house in Cardiff precisely.

The visionary concept for the opera house was bold and groundbreaking, but eventually the idea of an opera house was abandoned and, after disputes with the contractor, the authorities decided to build a rugby stadium.

When working on the project, the architect wanted to create a monument building. An architectural icon that would become one of the city’s landmarks and attract tourists. At the same time, the opera house would have a positive impact on the surroundings, become a meeting place for residents and complement the square. An innovative solution was to raise part of the square next to the building, creating a kind of open-air stage. This would allow open-air artistic events to take place here.

Zaha Hadid in Baku, 2013 photo by Dmitry Ternovoy,, licence: FAL 1.3

The dynamic form of the building accentuates the hierarchy of the different parts. The designer indicates where the heart of the opera house – the auditorium – is, and where there are semi-public spaces and rooms accessible only to artists and staff. Other rooms like jewels in a necklace surround the entire establishment. Even then, one could see the love of movement and fluidity characteristic of her later work.

Zaha Hadid Architects is still active today. Its headquarters are in London. Several hundred people work in the office, and the thoughts and ideas of the architectural studio’s founder can be seen in the projects created there.

source: Zaha Hadid Architects

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