** Djurdja Milutinovic
MIP 4 WOMEN SCHOLARSHIP
“You know, space is an interesting endeavour… you create an interesting… the impact you have on the cityscape… The whole life of a city can be in a single view…Break the perspective… Make it porous… Turn it around, more like a science fiction…”
These were the words of Zaha Hadid on one architectural conference. Students were gazing into her, patiently, trying hard to understand her thoughts. There was a little sound other than her voice, click of the keyboards and tap of the pen. The conference was over and she was greeted with an amazingly long applause. I thought I was the only one who barely understood her words and her idea, but suddenly I saw other students as they were stepping out in a silence, with a very thoughtful facial expression, each of them deeply preoccupied with their own imaginative world that all of a sudden filled out with paradigms, doubts and questions. Her deconstructionism not only appears in her architecture, but also in her verbal expression. Straightaway I had a moment of cognition, realizing that exactly it was the point. Her unique approach makes you think about yourself, your work, your creation and not about hers. She makes you become an avid observer. She makes you re-question and reaffirm each and every aspect of your urge and desire in order to find your own path. Interrogative words such as ‘why’, or even ‘why not’ or ‘what for’ break any chain of thoughts. Having doubts in ourselves, questioning every piece of our vision and creation over and over again, makes us rise, makes us greater. Finally, it is a common denominator for any kind of success. Later on, that doubtful state becomes a mental atmosphere that occurs very frequently, in order never to get too confident. It is hard to recollect scattered picture and to construct it over again, I confess, but it is the only way of finding our own path. Zaha is one of the few who had the ability of doing it in so subtle and diplomatic manner, just like an architectural guru, probably knowing that only by thinking out of the box and by constant self-analysis: stability, self-confidence and high goals may be achieved. “Never get lulled in your comfort zone… that is too easy” she said. Her career has not been traditional or easy. Seems that all architects have to struggle, but Zaha perhaps have struggled rather more than most. After finishing school in Baghdad, she studied mathematics, a completely different field that in what her future career was about to transform. By moving to London to study architecture she also faced a misogynist behaviour. Architecture is the most public of endeavours, yet it is a smugly hermetic world. It is a male- dominant industry and it’s hard to believe that it is still difficult for a woman to break the business barrier. But her strong character and diversity shook the world and to the nickname Diva, as the critics always called her, she replied: “Would they call me a diva if I were a guy?”
Unfortunately, it is still happening today to all female professionals while aspiring their goals. But how to break the curse or is there any possible way of erasing so deeply rooted mannish past and long incubation of women? Yes, there is, I realized, by being persistent and powerful just like a drop of water. Dams are powerful concrete constructions, but if one drop of water penetrates, it is the question of time when the whole structure will collapse and there is nothing that could stop it. A drop of water is always going downhill, finding the path of least resistance, achieving with it’s tenacity an unfathomable limits. Zaha Hadid managed it. She succeeded to transform her being into a drop of water, floating on already established ocean. Even if the circumstances had broke her apart into a single molecules, nothing could break her rule of molecular bonding once established that in the same time represented her personality and her own path. Zaha Hadid became the most prominent world contemporary female architect and the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture. But there is always a question what actually means being such a great architect? Is it the one who is extremely creative, with great drawing skills? Or it involves a lot more? Following Zaha’s example, I realized that being a good architect is the one who can manage all complementary scientific, technical, sociological and economic fields better than any economist, scientist, sociologist may be able to manage architecture. Architects, in order to serve to the society, in order to create cities and one’s life space have to be knowledgeable and broadly educated. Therefore, architecture itself goes more beyond one sketch, one drawing or constructed environment. It is interplay of influential powers that pervade one through another.
This specific approach was confirmed later, when Zaha was named a businesswoman of the year at the Veuve Clicquot awards in London. She was distinguished as a business leader who has shown entrepreneurship and financial success, as well as a commitment to corporate social responsibility and her role in encouraging other women into the industry. Zaha has moved the boundaries. She transcended the limits by embracing architectural and non-architectural fields. It made her an independent professional. It made her an expert, a business expert. Above all, this principle applied to any other vocation than architecture would also open unlimited possibilities. Knowledge, skills and ambitions do not recognize neither a gender differences nor a basic studies or profession. They have the power to break any dam and overcome any obstacle. But without them it is hard to achieve any success. This way, Zaha is a great zeal of business women to serve as role model.
Zaha represented a great supportive buttress and kinetic force in various milestone moments I have faced. She has showed the way ‘things’ should be done and she proved that ‘things’ can be done. Having her image constantly in the background of my mind, gave me power to fight every obstacle and to keep striving to the goal. However difficult situations I had faced by being in different country, just like her, and struggling in a male dominant industry, in non-native language, by pursuing my dreams and personal realization, I knew that everything can be achieved. It is only a question of time; just like bringing down a dam.
It is very hard to resist and not to be astonished by Zaha’s personality, strength and energy, and also by her life, achievements and creation. Unfortunately, decades old stereotypes still persist. The core of wrong ideology remains, but it is modified and adopted to the philosophy of 21st century. But when are we going to see one great castle or a new Eiffel Tower constructed by women? When there are going to be raised statues in the honour of a women? When the equality will overcome disparity? When women will receive earned respect? Hopefully today.
** Djurdja Milutinovic