Five Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Zaha Hadid

You know that Zaha Hadid loves undulating curves, futuristic faucets and glossy polymers usually reserved for next-generation Toyotas – only a few of the tools employed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect in pioneering a fluid geometry that suggests El Lissitzky‘s summer home… on Neptune. But there’s more to Hadid than fiber-reinforced plastic and steel, as revealed in John Seabrook’s profile, published in the Dec.-24-28 double issue of The New Yorker.

Here are five fun facts that caught our eye:

5. Hadid does not live in a shiny pod but in a “suprisingly conventional” space that is a five-minute walk from her firm’s London offices.

She owns the top floor of a non-descript building, where she lives alone (she has never been married). The entirely white space is filled with furniture and paintings, all of which she created. She is not a collector of the works of others, unless you count her clothes (they take up a huge closet, which was also designed by her office) and her jewelry, piled like pirate’s booty on a table in her dressing room. Apart from its contents, her living space is suprisingly conventional, which is the way Hadid likes it. “It’s not my project,” she once said.

4. Founded in 1980 with five employees, Zaha Hadid Architects today has a staff of more than 300 people, almost half of them under 30.

3. She’s not spacey. Seabrook notes that, “Hadid rarely uses the word ‘space’ in talking about her designs, preferring words like ‘energy’ and ‘field’ and ‘ground conditions.'”

2. Her fondness for the off-kilter was seeded by an asymmetric mirror in her childhood home in Baghdad (she hasn’t been back since 1980). “I was thrilled by that mirror,” she once told the London Times. “It started my love of asymmetry.”

1. She’s a night owl who loves to text message.

Aaron Betsky, the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum and a noted architectural critic, was once in the front row at a lecture Hadid was giving at Columbia University, when he started to realize that she was texting at the same time. He pointed this out to Hani Rashid, the New York-based architect he was sitting next to. Hadid stopped her lecture and barked, “Pay attention, Aaron!”