Can you name an architect practicing before the 20th century? Of course there is Christopher Wren and Michelangelo but the career itself is relatively new (higher education for the profession as we know it didn’t begin in the West until the 1850s). So when we’re asked to name an architect, names such as Mies van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Eero Saarinen will come to mind, right?

Enter the “Starchitect”, a term that Wikipedia characterizes as “a portmanteau used to describe architects whose celebrity and critical acclaim have transformed them into idols of the architecture world and may even have given them some degree of fame amongst the general public.” Frank Gehry, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas, Bjarke Ingels, and amongst them one stands out as entirely unique: Zaha Hadid.

Female (in fact, the first woman to win the Pritzker prize), Iraqi by birth, oftentimes controversial and a bit rogue in style, her designs are known around the world yet until the year 2000 she had never seen one of her buildings realized in London, the place she’d made her home for over 30 years. On a recent trip we listened to the podcast “Desert Island Discs” in a segment recorded just a little over a month before her death. Lively, supremely talented, honest, and endearingly charming, this 45 minute program gave us a glimpse into a side of the architect that can’t be seen from her buildings.

Orrrrr can it? You decide!

Here’s the eight songs she would be compelled to take with her on a desert island alongside several her architectural visions and creations. See any parallels?

***click the photos to enlarge***

[Designs left to right: the Vitra Fire Station, 33-35 Hoxton Square, Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre, Broad Art Museum, Central Bank of Iraq, Guangzhou Opera House, Leeza SOHO, Crest]

You can listen to the entire recording of Zaha and learn what luxury she would simply have to have alongside the above tunes here. To explore her architecture in more depth visit

PS: to learn more about what it is like for a woman like Zaha in the male dominated architecture industry, click here to reach out to Susan Ungerleider who spent over a decade creating in the field (and envying Zaha’s shoe designs alllll the way).

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment on our Facebook or Instagram page - whether it be tagging a local designing woman or sharing your desert island playlist, we can’t wait to hear from you.

The Assemblage Studio