Had you been in Rome last summer, you'd have found it impossible to ignore Zaha Hadid: her face, publicizing a retrospective of her work at the National Center for Contemporary Arts, peered diva-like from every bus and billboard in town. Hadid may not be as famous in the United States, but she will be soon. When the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Artopens this May in Cincinnati, Hadid will become the first female architect to have designed a major American museum. Her futuristic glass-and-concrete building is a zig-zagging, six-story structure that links the city street with the galleries inside by using what Hadid calls an urban carpet.
Ever since she won the 1983 competition to design the Peak restaurant in Hong Kong, Hadid's geometric yet fluid style, influenced by Russian Deconstructivism and Arabic calligraphy, has captivated the design world. Her projects—from an angular concrete fire station in Weil am Rhein for the German furniture giant Vitra, to the Modernist, multi-level sets she created for the Pet Shop Boys—have proved Hadid's virtuosic skill. Her kinetic designs are motion writ in concrete and steel: energetic swells that take Goethe's description of architecture as frozen music to a new level.
Hadid is currently building major projects all over the globe. She recently completed a ski jump at Innsbruck and is working on a science center in Wolfsburg, Germany; a half-mile-long bridge in Abu Dhabi; a ferry terminal in Salerno, Italy; an entire "science city" in Singapore; a factory and office complex for BMW; and a new building for the National Center for Contemporary Arts in Rome. She also won the commission to do an outpost of the Guggenheim Museum in Tokyo. T+L caught up with Hadid in London, where she talked about her favorite spots and her secrets to traveling in style.