The Royal Institute of British Architects has announced that the Royal Gold Medal for 2016 will be awarded to architect Zaha Hadid. While the world celebrates her achievements, a not so celebratory interview with BBC Radio 4 upended as it was cut short by the architect.

The Royal Gold Medal is awarded to someone whose contributions result notably in “the advancement of architecture”. Zaha Hadid is the first female architect to be graced with the accolade.

Al Wakrah Stadium - Courtesy of Zaha Hadid

Al Wakrah Stadium – Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Presenter Sarah Montague questioned Hadid about the “reported” 1200 deaths on the site of the Al Wakrah stadium project for the Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022. Hadid stated that the interviewer must check her information before saying something as the report was untrue. There had been such an allegation in the past in an article whose reporter had been rightly sued. Zaha Hadid said , “ It was removed. I sued someone in the Press for it and they had to withdraw and apologize.” “You can categorically say that there were no deaths on the building site?” asked Sarah Montague, to which Hadid replied “absolutely not!” However, Sarah Montague persisted in her questioning despite the fact that there were zero deaths on the site according to Hadid.


The interview went into a further downward spiral as the interviewer stated that Zaha Hadid had “pulled out in the end” from the Tokyo Stadium project. “I didn’t pull out. I pulled out because there was no contractor to go with. Again this is a very serious story and it should be reported accurately, and somebody should be interested in it because it’s a scandal,” said Hadid. She was asked to elaborate why it was a scandal but was interrupted by Montague in between. She was asked to “speed up”. “Don’t ask me a question if you can’t let me finish it, then I won’t say anything,” said Hadid.” Instead the interviewer stated that the Japanese Prime Minister pulled the plug on the project because of its soaring budget. Thereafter, Zaha Hadid ended the interview saying “Let’s stop this conversation right now. I don’t want to carry on.”

New National Stadium, Tokyo – Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

BBC Radio 4 has apologised saying, “The ITUC’s figure of 1200 construction deaths which was quoted on this morning’s programme refers to the whole of Qatar, and not specifically to the main World Cup stadium site. We are sorry we didn’t make this clear in this morning’s interview with Dame Zaha Hadid. We are happy to accept there is no evidence of deaths at the main stadium site.

By: Sahiba Gulati

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