Why Can’t Dallas Have Nice Things: Zaha Hadid

Share News:

38-story, 200-room Lusail Hotel and 120 Residence: Lusail City, Qatar (complete 2020)

The Pritzker Architecture Prize, begun in 1979 by Hyatt Hotel heir Jay Pritzker, honored Zaha Hadid in 2004, becoming the first woman and Muslim to be recognized.  It was hardly Hadid’s first or last award for her work. Her designs are radically angled, “There are 360 degrees, so why stick to one?” That style earned Hadid the moniker “Queen of the Curve”.

Hadid, who died in 2016 at age 65, was born in Iraq and spent most of her life in the UK. Originally studying mathematics, she transferred to architecture in 1972 where she studied with Rem Koolhaus at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. While she hung out her architect’s shingle in 1980, she was always a teacher, having inspired students at Harvard, Cambridge, University of Chicago and Columbia University. That’s not to say she wasn’t prolific. She and her 400 staff have designed over 950 projects in 44 countries. The firm continues Hadid’s successes having received 31 awards in 2017 and eight awards so far in 2018.

33-35 Hoxton Square, London

Designed in conjunction with Patrik Schumacher, Hoxton Square isn’t so much an infill project as it is replacing an infill project.  Currently nestled between historic buildings, 33-35 Hoxton Square appears to be a 1990s redo of a 1960s redo (possibly infilled from WWII damage).  So no historic building is harmed.

The square is home to an eclectic mix of bars, cafes, art galleries and nightclubs in newly trendy Shoreditch area of London.  The building takes its shape from a prism of overlapping planes of sandblasted aluminum and glass and will house a two-level art gallery when complete. I include it here as example that not all the drama is in high-rises. But also, to show a startling infill project, designed by a master, that many will believe is out of place (“Looks like a spaceship landed”).

Spittelau Viaducts Housing Project, Vienna, Austria (2005)

Another low-rise project, the Spittelau project is on the banks of the Danube and straddles a protected (though disused) series of arched railway viaducts. It’s actually a series of three structures containing apartments, offices and artists’ lofts. The destination project stitches together the traditional Vienna with historically less desirable immigrant neighborhoods.

The arched railway viaducts are visible above and many have been converted into bars and restaurants to further enliven the area. This, like Hoxton Square, are examples of how modern architecture can marry with existing historical structures in a jarring but interesting way.

We all know Dallas doesn’t have much in the way of historic structures, but seeing how architecture can respond to unique surroundings is a lesson every site must contend with.  As I’ve been contemplating the Pink Wall’s next steps, I definitely lean more towards buildings that reflect this age and not trying to mimic the existing 1960s designs that were modern in that age.

Casa Atlantica: Rio de Janiero, Brazil

Sandwiched between two existing and relatively modern structures, Casa Atlantica maintains the horizontal flow of its neighbors while setting itself apart with generous and curvaceous balconies. I use this example to highlight how a modern structure can accommodate neighbors while striking out on its own. Similar to how I think a future building between Dallas’ Athena and Preston Tower should interact.

Casa Atlantica is almost like a combination of the prow of a ship and an old-fashioned radiator on its side. The ground-level lobby invites onlookers with its organic, almost nouveau midcentury vibe.  From a distance, the balconies are space aged. Compared to its neighbors, you definitely want to live here!

Dorobanti Tower: Bucharest, Romania

As long as I’m fantasizing about what would work in Dallas, imagine Dorobanti Tower in place of Museum Tower or One Arts Plaza … or perhaps part of the Smart District or Dallas Midtown projects? What a welcome mat beacon for Dallas.

Designed in 2008 and currently under construction, the 650-foot tall tower is encased in an eye-catching structural lattice.  I’m not sure how the lattice impacts views, but it looks stunning. Also, being structural, it transfers support to the exterior which allows for larger, column-free, interior spaces (always an issue with high-rises).

Sunrise Tower: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In Dallas we should be used to a high-rise with a hole in it. Sunrise Tower is even holier and offers 11 more stories than Chase Tower’s fifty-five. Sunrise is a mixed use design with a hotel and residential along with office and retail elements. Hadid called its design a fluid, “vertical landscape.”

You will note that the building has no stepped out podium level. Instead, the building merges perfectly with the ground allowing passersby to directly interact with the tower at ground level. The design was submitted to a competition and there are currently no plans to build it. Pity.

Bora Tower: Mexico City, Mexico (2021)

Designed as a mixed income/need property, Bora Tower’s 220 apartments range from one to three bedrooms, attracting first-timers, families, and retirees. Built as a series of six square tubes, each housing one unit type, means that each floor will be shared by a mix of one-bedroom first-timers up to three-bedroom families or retirees. All apartments will benefit from dual-aspect corner windows and wrap-around balconies.  The building itself will be over 50 stories when complete in 2021.

The inward tapering near the base coupled with its skirt-like canopies provide spaces for the resident amenities while offering larger, ground-level commercial spaces for restaurants and cafés. This mixed use space helps create or improve neighborhood vibrancy.

Grace on Coronation: Brisbane, Australia

Consisting of three towers ranging from 24-to-27 stories, the Grace on Coronation will have 547 apartments and eight riverfront villas. The site is zoned for five towers of 15 stories each, by making the three towers taller, the developer was able to “give back” nearly two acres for a public park.

The towers’ design has been likened to champagne flutes.  For those digging the design, Zaha Hadid designed a series of housewares that mimic the building’s notable bases (here).

The plan isn’t without controversy. The project was approved by the Brisbane City Council in June 2015, but neighborhood challenges have stalled construction. The opposition, led by a “millionaire neighbor” has grown, but the court upheld the city council’s decision. Naturally it’s been appealed. I can’t weigh in on the controversy, but the buildings are very cool.

Aljada Central Hub: Sharjah, UAE (2025)

Designed after Hadid’s death by colleagues Patrik Schumacher and Charles Walker, Aljada Central Hub is the centerpiece of a 24 million-square-foot planned development. Central Hub encompasses 1.9 million square feet of civic spaces consisting of an activity zone, food market and outdoor event spaces mixed within a green environment serviced by reclaimed wastewater.

Think of it as Fair Park 2.0. The overall design is meant to evoke a water drop (the central observation tower) as it strikes the ground. Elliptical buildings are used to reflect the droplet’s fragmentation and motion.  The shapes are also used to channel cooling winds through the property (it’s the Middle East after all and it gets HOT). Envisioned as not only a community space, but a tourist destination when completed … like Fair Park.

Hadid died before making it to Dallas (no one lives to 1,000 after all), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold out for buildings designed by talented architects that make us smile and look up in awe.

Sure, no city can be full of these mesmerizing buildings without feeling gaudy and losing the impact of gems sprinkled amongst a plainer backdrop.  Dallas already has plenty of plain backdrop to showcase a few stellar buildings.  We need to add some modern verve to our 1980’s skyline. Zaha Hadid’s firm still has what it takes to inspire us.


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

Posted in

Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

Reader Interactions


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *