art, Zeena Beale
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Dardishi with: Hannah Allawi

Zeena Beale  |  April 14 2016

Hannah Allawi is an architect and urban designer currently pursuing her PhD studies in Environmental Design and Sustainable Urban Planning at the University of Calgary, Canada. Hannah holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the American University of Sharjah and a Master of Science in Architecture & Urban Design from Columbia University. She has trained with Atelier Hitoshi Abe in Sendai, Japan and Amin Taha Architects in London, England. She has recently practiced with the British firm, Building Design Partnership (BDP) in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Hannah dardashat with Zeena about the lasting legacy of Zaha Hadid on young Iraqi architects today.

What inspired you to start studying architecture?

I was about 7 or 8 years old that I began becoming interested in creating space – I have always been intrigued by houses and the spaces that we occupy on a daily basis as well as the infinite ways of designing a home. Although I did not understand this concept fully at that age but it was the feel of a place and the sense of memory that ignited my interest in the Architectural field which eventually led me to pursue it as my higher education and career.

As an Iraqi architect yourself, how and why did Zaha Hadid influence you?

Zaha Hadid was an integral part of my learning during my early years at the American University of Sharjah. I studied her work immensely but as a student during that time, I was more intrigued by her as an architect and a woman who has made a difference in the architectural field than I was by her built works.

Were there any of Zaha’s works that appealed especially to you?

The most appealing of Zaha Hadid’s works are her renderings and paintings of her early architectural explorations. They were done before any of her projects were built in what almost feels like the beginning of a redefining era within the world of Architecture at that time.

Did you ever get the chance to meet Zaha?

It was during my masters degree at Columbia University that I got to meet Zaha Hadid after her lecture. It was a very exciting moment for me – I am honoured to have had the chance to meet her in person.

Have you ever worked with any other Iraqi architects? If so, what was that like, working alongside compatriots, in a place so far removed from Iraq itself?

During my time working as an architect in Abu Dhabi, I had a wonderful opportunity working and learning from my Iraqi colleagues and friends. What we had in common was that we were all educated outside of Iraq but shared the hope that one day we would apply our expertise in rebuilding our country.

Would you say that Zaha was an Iraqi national symbol? Or did she represent something more than just her nationality?

Many Iraqis do acknowledge Zaha Hadid as one of the symbols of Iraq’s intellect, history and pride, but I believe Zaha Hadid was more than just a symbol of her nationality. She pursued her work in the field of architecture and design with no boundaries and contributed towards a new language of architectural form.

How do you feel that Zaha’s work and message will be able to be carried on?

I feel Zaha’s legacy will carry on through her creations and through avid studies of future architects.

Why do you feel that Zaha’s work needs to be carried on?

I feel it is not so much in the sense of what Zaha has built, but how she has created her architecture that could be carried forward along with her rigorous work ethic coupled with the passion to contribute to the field, as she has done so influentially in her career.

Image: Bee’ah Headquarters, Sharjah, UAE. Sourced:


Zeena Beale iszena in her final year of studying Music at Homerton College, Cambridge University. She hopes to carry on her studies at Cambridge next year on the Music Studies MPhil programme, specialising in Ethnomusicology. Alongside her interest in academic music, Zeena is a keen violinist, clarinetist and occasional singer. You can follow her on twitter or read her articles here.

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