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Zaha Moment

Worldly architect Zaha Hadid is turning her attention toward Los Angeles, where she’ll design the set of L.A. Phil’s rendition of Così Fan Tutte.

Architect Zaha Hadid tackles stage design with Così Fan Tutte.

Love or loathe the term “starchitect,” sometimes it simply fits. So it is for London-based Zaha Hadid, the first female to receive the prestigious Pritzker Prize, architecture’s version of an Oscar. From being made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to architecture to making numerous “best dressed” lists every year, she’s a name people know.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics in Beirut before moving to London in 1972 and enrolling at the Architectural Association, where teachers included Rem Koolhaas. In 1980, she opened her own firm, winning international commissions nearly immediately. Be they museums, a factory or a ski jump, Hadid’s creations hover on the landscape, sometimes reclining, sometimes reaching. But she’s not limited to architecture—she designs interiors too. She’s also created footwear for Lacoste, sets for the Pet Shop Boys, jewelry for Swarovski and Caspita, and, new this spring, vases for Lalique. “Our collaborations with different industries give us an opportunity to express our ideas in a different scale and through different media,” she says. “We see it as part of a continuous process of design investigation.”

Her only U.S. building is in Cincinnati, but this May, she returns stateside with her design for the L.A. Phil’s staging of Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The performance, with costumes by Hussein Chalayan, marks the finale of the Phil’s Mozart/Da Ponte Trilogy that began in 2012, with Frank Gehry and Rodarte designing Don Giovanni, followed by Jean Nouvel and Azzedine Alaïa for The Marriage of Figaro in 2013. “The primary idea is transformation, creating a set that adapts and transforms as the storyline unfolds,” Hadid explains. When it comes to storylines, Hadid’s is the one to follow.

Zaha’s Hots: Mad Men, high heels (though I’ve become a bit more practical with age and don’t wear them so much anymore), the iPad, Panton Chairs by Vitra, Diptyque scented candles

Zaha’s Nots: Smoking, tomatoes, shower curtains