Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-born London architect whose swooping, strongly sculpted buildings made her an object of both veneration and controversy, has died at age 65.

Hadid — the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, widely regarded as her field’s highest honor — died Thursday of a heart attack at a Miami hospital, the Associated Press reported. She was being treated there for bronchitis.

Hadid’s best-known designs include two cultural buildings in the Midwest — Cincinnati’s Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art and the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University — as well as an opera house in Guangzhou, China, an innovative BMW plant in Leipzig, Germany, and the aquatic center for the 2012 London Olympics.

Michigan State’s Broad Museum, widely known among students as “the spaceship,” is classic Hadid — a stainless-steel design with exterior walls canted at unusual angles, easily the most unusual building on campus.

“Zaha Hadid said she believed that one can create buildings that inspire, evoke original experiences and generate the excitement of new ideas,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “Her stunning design for the Broad Art Museum did that, challenging us to see things in new ways before we even get inside.”

Eli Broad, a 1954 MSU graduate, released a statement saying, “Edye and I are deeply saddened that our friend Zaha Hadid died at such a young age. She is without question one of the great architects of our time. We were honored and delighted to work with her on the Broad Art Museum at MSU, which turned out to be a real jewel.”

Though Hadid often complained that she had little work in England, Queen Elizabeth II gave her the title dame in 2012, and this year she became the first woman to win the Royal institute of British Architects’ gold medal.

“She was truly a pioneer in the field of architecture,” a spokesman for the Pritzker Prize said in a statement. She “will be remembered for her talent, creativity, commitment, loyalty and friendship.”

Hadid was well-known for her fluid forms as well as her formidable personality. Last September, she cut short a live interview on BBC Radio after her host incorrectly stated that more than 1,200 migrant workers had died while building a soccer stadium designed for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, then asked the architects about her scrapped stadium plan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The BBC later apologized.

In London, where she lived and worked, Mayor Boris Johnson tweeted that “she was an inspiration and her legacy lives on in wonderful buildings” at the Olympic park and around the world.

Born and raised in Baghdad, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before enrolling at the Architectural Association in London in 1972.

She worked for the groundbreaking Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas before setting up London-based Zaha Hadid Architects in 1979.

Hadid’s work fused her knowledge of mathematics and embrace of computer technology with soaring imagination and ambition.

She designed buildings around the world — though relatively few, she often noted, were in Britain. Her projects included an innovative BMW plant in Leipzig, Germany; sleek funicular railway stations in Innsbruck, Austria; the glittering Guangzhou Opera House in China; Rome’s light-filled MAXXI museum for contemporary arts and architecture; and the strikingly curved Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Her buildings were always talking points, and sometimes controversial. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul was compared by detractors to an ugly spaceship that had made an emergency landing. Last year the Japanese government revoked her commission to build the stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics amid spiraling costs.

Uncompleted works include one of the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and a new Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad.

Hadid twice won Britain’s Stirling Prize for architecture and in 2004 became the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, known as the “Nobel prize of architecture.”

The Pritzker jury praised her unswerving commitment to modernism and defiance of convention.

Staff writer Michael H. Hodges contributed to this report.


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