“Man is not made for defeat,” said the fisherman In Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea.” Maybe that’s why some of our most famous architects seem like sore losers when a commission is taken away from them or is criticized. .
Frank Gehry, noted for his free-formed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain and Walt Disney Concert Hall got a thumbs-down from Dwight D. Eisenhower’s granddaughter Susan Eisenhower for his National Eisenhower Memorial proposal. After 16 years and $40 million spent, she said, “It is time to go back to the drawing board. The Gehry design is, regretfully, unworkable.” (Translation: too modern).
What does Gehry say to those who question his unorthodox designs? When a Spanish journalist for El Mundo asked him last year why he designs show-off buildings, he said, “98 per cent of what gets built and designed today is pure shit.”
Now comes a rejection for frequent award-winner Zaha Hadid.
Her design for the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, in construction since 2012, has been tossed out over rising construction costs (last count 252 billion yen $2 billion) and the unpopularity of the design. Japan’s native architects had petitioned against it. Their beef? They called it too big for the site, variously calling it “a monumental mistake” and “a gigantic white elephant.”
For that Hadid called them “hypocrites,” telling Dezeen architecture magazine “I think it’s embarrassing for them, that’s all I can say,”
But that’s not all she said. Pulling the race card, she said, “They don’t want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium. On the other hand, they all have work abroad.”
Hadid has also been known to pull the misogyny card. When her design for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar was unveiled, critics ridiculed it for resembling a vagina. She told TIME that she finds it “embarrassing that [critics] come up with nonsense like this. What are they saying? Everything with a hole in it is a vagina? That’s ridiculous,” adding that if her design were made by a man, the notion of female anatomy would never come up.
She’s complained about sexism before, even despite her numerous victories. She’s got 950 projects in 44 countries. Yet she told UK’s Telegraph in 2013, “People don’t talk to you properly. It’s the way they talk to you, they dismiss you. I think it’s a combination of me being a woman and a foreigner. Hadid is from Iraq.”
She has also accused the UK of sexism. Never mind that the Brits awarded her the title of Dame Hadid for services in architecture. For another, the BBC named her one of the most powerful women in England. The British magazine New Statesman also noted her on its list of The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures. She wins awards a lot.
She even won a lawsuit. Last year she sued the New York Review of Books because the reviewer got his facts. He did. Hadid won a retraction and a settlement of an undisclosed amount.
Where is it written that successful people should always win? In the pages of Hemingway novel about the sea.