This story was originally published on September 24, 2015, and updated to reflect Zaha Hadid's passing on March 31, 2016.
Dame Zaha Hadid was awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects last September, the first time a woman has won the award in her own right (previously, Charles and Ray Eames, as well as architects Michael and Patricia Hopkins, were joint winners). Coming after a series of public struggles with the Tokyo Olympic Stadium which saw her winning design rejected, and an effort to compete anew for the right to design the Olympic centerpiece fizzle out, it must have been reassuring to take home such a prestigious award, given in recognition of a lifetime's work and presented since 1848. It puts her in rare company; Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and even Buckminster Fuller have taken home the prize. The recognition also added more hardware to Hadid's impressive trophy case, which includes two Stirling Prizes (also from the RIBA), a Pritzker and numerous national awards. It's a bit of a fool's errand to argue who, historically, is the greatest architect, but strictly in terms of awards, how does Hadid stack up?
First, here are some of the highlights from Hadid's list of title and honors:
· Pritzker Architecture Prize (2004)
· RIBA Stirling Prize (back-to-back wins in 2010 and 2011)
· Republic of France's Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (2010)
· Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (2012)
· Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2000)
· Fellow of the American Institute of Architecture (2000)
· Time Most Influential People (2010)
· Design Museum Design of the Year (2014)
Clearly, one of the big differences, and difficulties, in making comparisons is the sheer number of new awards now presented compared to the past, which makes it a bit unfair to compare architects from different time periods. Without historical distance, it becomes much more difficult to place Zaha against many of the greats.
But, for the sake of comparison, how many other architects have won a Pritzker Prize and Royal Gold Medal? Quite a few, it turns out: Hadid joins 18 others that have won both awards for lifetime achievement, including James Stirling, I.M. Pei, Richard Meier, Kenzo Tange, Oscar Niemeyer, Frank Gehry, Alzaro Siza, Tadao Ando, Rafael Moneo, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, Jorn Utzon, Jean Nouvel, Peter Zumthor, Toyo Ito and Frei Otto.
If we take that list and compare against who has also won a Stirling Prize, that list grows smaller: James Stirling, Norman Foster and Herzog & de Meuron have also won all three awards. To shrink the field even more, Norman Foster has also won the Stirling Prize twice, and also has an impressive list of honors.
A head-to-head between Hadid and Foster gets tougher, making it harder to declare who comes out on top. Both have been given royal recognition (Dame Hadid and Lord Foster) and both have won the Mies van der Rohe Prize. Foster has also receiver the Aga Khan Prize and an AIA Gold Medal, which Hadid has not, while Hadid can lay claim to the Louise Blouin Award. Both have impressive resumes, for sure, and as many others have noted before, Hadid has often been the subject of unfair criticism compared to many of her peers. While impact and influence go beyond just trophies and medals, both can lay claim to an impressive amount of recognition.