Mathematics, the death of Zaha Hadid, creativity and architecture
Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid, DBE has died. The Maths Scholars scheme
joins the world to express their shock and sadness at the unexpected
loss of such a groundbreaking, creative and truly extraordinary
Hadid was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize 12 years ago and received the RIBA Gold Medal in 2015. In addition she won the Stirling Prize twice and was awarded a DBE to become Dame Zaha Hadid.
Creating the unbuildable but building anyway!
Born in Iraq in 1950 she studied mathematics before turning to architecture. Her work has been described as neofuturistic but not in a brutalist manner. She was known for her highly complex and challenging designs that pushed the boundaries, literally and metaphorically. Her sweeping curves leant an organic edge to structures that left engineers complaining that she was aiming to achieve designs that could not be realised.
Hadid understood mathematics
However, Hadid took no prisoners. She was uncompromising in her pursuit of a fragmented geometry and multiple perspectives. These designs appeared to reflect the multiplicity of contemporary life and the fracturing of expectation and tradition. If ever the adage ‘you must know the rules before you break them was applicable, then certainly Hadid understood mathematics, art and beauty. She designed buildings that tested building design and engineering to their limits.
Hadid’s interest in fractals is obvious
How fractals scale in comparison to how we perceive geometric shapes is clear in Hadid’s work. A regular line, is usually understood to be 1-dimensional. if such a curve is divided into sections each 1/3 the length of the original, there are always 3 equal pieces. The Koch snowflake is a contrast and in measuring a wavy fractal curve such as the Koch snowflake, one would never find a small enough straight segment to conform to the curve. This is because the wavy pattern re-appears each time, even though at a smaller size.
If any student ever asks.’ Why do we study maths?’ then Zaha Hadid’s architecture is a vivid testimony.
This is what a profound understanding of mathematics can achieve. She said that as she grew up mathematics was simply part of the everyday.
Hadid designed the new mathematics gallery at the Science Museum in London and its aim is to show the influence of mathematics and the mathematicians working in the discipline over the last 400 years. You can see images of the fabulous display cases designed by Hadid here.
It was the ideal project for an architect whose early influences were the maths and art in her native Iraq.
’My parents instilled in me a passion for discovery, and they never made a distinction between science and creativity. We would play with math problems just as we would play with pens and paper to draw -- math was like sketching.’
‘The headmistress was deeply committed to the education of women and understood that STEM subjects must be taught in a way connects their inherent creativity and relationships with the real world, rather than dry data to be memorized and regurgitated on standardized tests.
There is a definite connection between the logic of math and architecture -- so much of the work we are doing in our office comes from my fascination with mathematical logic and geometry.’
To hear Hadid speak about her work do listen to the BBC Desert Island Discs programme.
The Maths Scholars schem is saddened that such an ambassador for mathematics, risk, creativity and artistry should have died so young. There was so much more to come. We hope her legacy will inspire future generations of mathematicians, architects and teachers of mathematics to push the boundaries in the pursuit of beauty.
To find out more about becoming a Maths Scholar and inspiring the next generation to fulfil their mathematical and creative potential follow the link.