“In Iraq, rivers flow through green marshes. Wind swoops across sand dunes and through ancient cities. Zaha Hadid sees the rivers and marshes and dunes and ruins with her father and imagines what cities looked like thousands of years ago.”
So begins Jeanette Winter’s picture book biography of the renowned architect Zaha Hadid, who died in 2016 at the age of 65. Winter, herself the architect of many acclaimed books, notes that she was inspired by seeing photos of Hadid’s architectural designs, in which the “buildings seemed to fly. My spirit also took flight—to a place in my imagination that only landscape had taken me before.”
Winter’s book makes effective use of white space as she chronicles Hadid’s career as a young architectural student in London and her early challenges. Hadid entered many architectural competitions before finally winning one; and then her entry was so daring the city committee refused to build it. But Hadid didn’t, of course, give up.
Winter’s art helps young readers imagine Hadid’s creative process, as we see her design buildings that are not rectangles, but instead resemble shells, tall dancing grass and the swirling shapes of constellations. The book includes extensive source notes as well as a double-page spread depicting the locations of some of Hadid’s most famous buildings.
“The world is not a rectangle,” said the pioneering architect, who was the first woman to receive the most prestigious awards in her field. And speaking of awards, Winter’s elegant, luminous tribute is sure to garner a few.
Deborah Hopkinson lives near Portland, Oregon. Her most recent book for young readers is Independence Cake.