Zaha Hadid in the United Arab Emirates. An Architect Ahead of her Time
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Architect Zaha Hadid

Architect Zaha Hadid is known all over the world for breaking the statics of architecture in her projects. Her buildings have special plasticity; forms are fluid and walls vibrate, obeying invisible lines of movement. Each of the buildings created by Zaha Hadid has a unique artistic image and recognisable creative style. Into architecture, she brought not just “curves” of form but a completely tangible movement of matter. Best known for her work on the Guggenheim Museum in New York, she also left a significant creative mark in the Arab world. Her projects, which can be summarised under the term “architecture of the future”, have found their place in 45 countries around the world and, of course, organically fit into the dynamically developing United Arab Emirates.

The following is the contribution that the incredible architect made to the architectural image of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah with her innovative projects.


Dubai is full of impressive buildings. However, the Opus stands out even among these fantastic shapes.

Opus Zaha Hadid

The Opus building looks like something extraordinary and even impossible. The glass cube with a curved “hole” right through is notable not only for its unrealistic and fantastic exterior but also for the fact that it is the only hotel in the world where the legendary architect, Zaha Hadid, was engaged in designing not only the building itself but also creating futuristic interiors and furniture design. The construction of the Opus began in 2010, and it was opened in 2019.

Located in the Burj Khalifa, the Opus is designed as two separate towers that merge into a single whole, taking the shape of a cube. Then the cube is “cut out”, and a curving is formed in the centre of its volume. The image of emptiness in architecture, embodied by Zaha Hadid in the Opus building, is striking in its emotional tension. The megalithic “hole” that has passed through the austere cube of the building is cosmically attractive. Its movable edges change the shape of the hole from every point of view, each time presenting the viewer with new and new perspectives. For creating this shape, the two towers were connected by a four-story atrium at ground level, and at the height of 71 meters by an asymmetric three-story bridge 38 meters wide. It is such an unusual project, which has no analogues in the world, that architects and art critics have not yet found the correct term to describe the building with a hole in the centre.

The free-flowing fluidity of the eight-story curving contrasts with the precise geometry of the surrounding cube and the rigid silhouettes of nearby skyscrapers. At night, the interior of the curving glows, adding charm and magnetism to the new architectural landmark.

According to the established tradition of the Zaha Hadid Architects studio, this project also received the status of a “must-see landmark”.

“The design conveys the remarkably inventive quality of ZHA’s work. It expresses a sculptural sensibility that reinvents the balance between solid and void, opaque and transparent, interior and exterior,” says Omniyat, the company behind the project.



Bee’ah’s new headquarters will be built next to the company’s waste recycling centre in the Emirate of Sharjah.

Zaha Hadid designed the building in the form of two voluminous dunes that surround the courtyard like an oasis. This implementation will provide natural ventilation to all areas of the building during the cooler months. Due to the light colours of the facades and roof, the architect planned to minimise the heating of the building from the sun’s rays. Glazed surfaces will fill the interiors with plenty of natural light. The building will be partially powered by solar panels located around it and the building’s remaining electricity needs are met by the plant, where electricity is generated from waste processing.

One of the “dunes” of the Bee’ah headquarters is reserved for public spaces; it houses a large lobby, an educational centre, an auditorium and an exhibition gallery. Also, the first “dune” will be equipped with executive offices. The second “dune” will be used for employees’ offices.

In the project, the Bee’ah headquarters will be erected with a minimum cost of materials, and a large part of the building will be made from recycled building materials. Landscaping by Zaha Hadid Architects envisages the area planted with desert plants.

In this project, Zaha Hadid fully reflected the principles and philosophy of the company aimed at changing the attitude and behaviour of people, communities, businesses and cities towards the environment by providing infrastructure, tools and support to achieve their environmental goals. Working towards zero waste, cleaner air and water, renewable energy and a sustainable future, Bee’ah has shown through architecture and innovation that there are environmental solutions to society’s problems.

As a result of a whole range of “green solutions”, the building received LEED Platinum certification.

According to the architects, the Bee’ah headquarters will become “an icon for future offices”.

Throughout her career, Hadid created over 1000 projects. Denying the right angle in them, the architect liked to repeat that if there are 360 ​​degrees, why not take advantage of this entire spectrum. Her buildings have no boundaries; they resemble streams of water and dunes that flow into the environment and flow in space.



The Sheikh Zayed Bridge, which many call a symbol of the country’s continuous development along the path of progress, is one of the most striking sights in the UAE. This unique architectural structure is named after the first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed, who ruled the country for thirty-eight years since 1971. When Zaha Hadid designed this bridge, she wanted a fast-paced, highly conceptual design that spanned space and time.

The 842-meter-long bridge resembling dunes thrown across the water surface has become one of the architectural symbols of Abu Dhabi.

The construction of the structure took only three years. In the course of its construction, a detailed computer model was created, which helped in the assembly of structural elements and made it possible to evaluate the behaviour of the structure in the future. This two-way bridge with four highways links Abu Dhabi with the northern emirates. The bridge is decorated with three main asymmetrical arches, which resemble the dunes of the desert with their flowing lines. The main and small arches of the roadway are dynamically surrounded by the roadbed from both sides, and at the sea arch, the arcs are maximally parted to the sides, letting the road consoles be between them.

To create the visual lightness of the bridge structure, the architect raised the central arch 64 meters above the water level, making it the dominant feature of the structure, and reduced the side arches in size. The architect rejected the usual rhythmic repetition of elements and intervals for most large bridges, preferring smooth flowing asymmetric forms, which gave the structure a unique image.

The structure of the bridge itself was designed to withstand high wind speeds, extreme temperatures and potential earthquakes.

The lighting design of the bridge in the evening is a metaphor for the energy flowing through the water, visualised by the transition of the colours of light from one to another.

Sheikh Zayed Bridge is another gem in UAE architecture and has received several prestigious international awards.



Back in 2006, Hadid proposed the Dancing Towers project, which, towering over the city and the waterfront, convincingly confirms that the construction of a new business centre is a vital catalyst in determining the future of Dubai. The complex of three 350-meter towers, making up a single whole, create a truly iconic view. Together they create a new presence, delineating the horizon and creating a powerful and instantly recognisable silhouette. The project is a fusion of three interlocking towers for office, hotel and residential functions. This project, combining the smoothness of the water and the lines of the building, was built on the shores of Business Bay. The towers are endowed with a spectacular silhouette of refracted rays, intertwining with each other, that seem to be cut from above.

A year later, at the developer’s request, Hadid designed the flat building for the Dubai Stock Exchange, and the towers were refurbished to provide easy access to the Dubai financial market. As such, the project was renamed Signature Towers.

The Dubai Stock Exchange project is shaped like petals on water and was designed to house brokers’ “showcases” as well as a central trading area. The atrium space is enclosed in a glass shell with rounded mansard windows around the entire perimeter. Here, the atrium is a trading platform for financiers and, at the same time, a centre for four “petals” diverging in different directions. The petals are supposed to fit in dozens of offices, each with a balcony opening onto a central atrium.


Abu Dhabi Performing Art Center

The Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Center is one of the most coveted attractions in the Saadiyat cultural district of Abu Dhabi. Created almost like a spaceship, this project pays homage to art and features space for five theatres. Hadid described the project as “a sculptural form that emerges from a linear intersection of pedestrian paths within the cultural district, gradually developing into a growing organism that sprouts a network of successive branches. As it winds through the site, the architecture increases in complexity, building up height and depth and achieving multiple summits in the bodies housing the performance spaces”.

Hadid’s architectural images are closely related to nature. At the Performing Arts Center, the architect remained true to her favourite theme of creative interpretation of natural landscapes and biological structures. Hadid broadcasted the idea that her architecture is akin to the natural landscape – absolutely straight lines cannot be found in it. Hadid herself described her project as a “biological analogy”, the components of which – fruits, trunks, leaves, stems – are transformed into architecture using parametric diagrams.


Zaha Hadid created a unique author’s style, recognisable all over the world. She did not try to fit architecture into space. She herself created this space and always went beyond the generally accepted.

When asked by a journalist what the most challenging thing for her in the work of an architect was, Zaha Hadid replied: “Explaining to other people that, although they are used to rectangular buildings, this is far from the only way to conquer space”.

Hadid left most of her artistic legacy where she was born – in the Middle East. Her unique architecture and design have made a significant contribution to contemporary art and allowed us to raise our understanding of the possibilities of modern architecture to a new level.

Zaha Hadid Architect
Zaha Hadid, architect ahead of her time

© Julia Smolenkova
© OpenSpace