In a public program Thursday night at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Iraqi-born, London-based Hadid — the first woman to win her field's highest honor, the Pritzker Architecture Prize — was subtly provocative, taking aim at everything from the planned Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to the Chicago Architectural Biennial.
That was interesting since the program was part of the biennial. But it wasn't surprising.
She has a history, it turns out, with Chicago. She taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the 1990s. In 2009 she designed a visually arresting, pod-shaped pavilion in Millennium Park to mark the centennial of Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett's Plan of Chicago.
While George Lucas considered her for his Chicago museum, she didn't get the job. It went instead to a former student of hers, the Beijing-based architect Ma Yansong. And Hadid had words for him.
"He's obviously very fond of me. He remembers me on every project," she said.
She followed that droll jab by saying that Ma's controversial Lucas design, which calls for a twin-peaked structure topped by a circular observation deck and restaurant, strongly resembles her multipeaked Dubai Opera House design, but "with a halo on it."
When Solomon asked Hadid about the Chicago Architecture Biennial, which features more than 100 works of contemporary design, including socially conscious works like Jeanne Gang's proposal to remake a Chicago police station in order to build trust between police and residents, the visitor damned the exhibition with faint praise.
"I think it's a cute show," she said, confirming that she had been through it. The exhibition, she added, "doesn't give me an idea of what to expect in the next 10 years."
That remark didn't come out of nowhere. The director of Hadid's office, Patrik Schumacher, created a stir in October when he wrote on his Facebook page that the biennial's exhibitions show that "guilt and bad conscience" have sapped contemporary architecture's vitality. After the presentation Thursday, Schumacher said he and Joseph Grima, the biennial's co-artistic director, would debate that topic next year at London's Architectural Association.