The architecture community is currently consumed in the back-and-forth between Zaha Hadid and New York Review of Books critic, Martin Filler. A bit of background to catch up: In a June 5th article on Rowan Moore's book Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture for the NYRB, Filler made mention of the contentious issues surrounding Zaha Hadid's work in Qatar, specifically her Al Wakrah Stadium project for the 2022 World Cup. The article garnered attention for his mentioning of Zaha Hadid's cavalier remarks on workers' rights, and the architect decided to sue the NYRB for defamation. In response, Filler issued a statement clearing up a date mismatch that nullified his claims against Hadid.
While Filler has toned down his approach to Zaha, a flurry of other critics are eagerly putting in their two cents. Below, we round up commentary on the critic's response to the architect's response to the critic. Keep up:
Paul Goldberger, Vanity Fair: Zaha Hadid is Still Wrong About Construction Worker Conditions
On the Streisand effect: "When unhappy subjects of criticism sue the critics who criticize them they rarely come through it looking anything other than spoiled and self-absorbed, and Hadid’s defamation suit seemed only to compound the foolishness of her initial statement ... She seemed to have overlooked the dangers of the so-called Streisand effect, named for the singer who sued to block publication of aerial photographs of her residence in Malibu in 2003, and in so doing drew so much publicity to the matter that the picture, which had attracted probably around six views on its photographer’s website before the lawsuit, was eventually downloaded more than 400,000 times. Hadid may not have as good a voice as Barbra Streisand, but she seemed to be singing from the same songbook."
Hadid should take a moral stand: "There really is a gargantuan problem in Qatar, where billions of dollars are going into enormous construction projects mainly to dazzle the rest of the world, and there is plenty of evidence that they are being built by workers who are paid a miserly wage and forced to work long hours and live in substandard conditions. Hadid may be technically correct in saying that architects cannot fix this problem themselves, but her remark is utterly disingenuous because her fame alone can bring enormous attention to the problem. Yes, she risks losing a job if an angry government fires her for being outspoken, but it is hard not to believe that she would gain four more jobs from people admiring her for taking a brave stand. No one forces an architect to accept a job that carries with it a serious ethical compromise.
On the upside of being a starchitect: "There are few architects who are bigger celebrities than Hadid, and for better or worse, celebrities have the potential to offer a moral example. Hadid has exploited her celebrity with more skill and determination than just about anyone. It is time that she made the most of this aspect of her celebrity too."
Martin C. Pederson, Metropolis Magazine: What Can Hadid Gain?
On the poor PR: "For the moment, let’s put aside the human rights issue and concentrate instead on the merits of Hadid’s suit. My first response to it is a question: who the hell is giving Zaha Hadid career advice these days?"
Anna Kats, Art Info: Zaha Hadid's Trials and Tribulations
Filler’s mistake was factual, not a lapse in critical judgment: "Hadid’s legal actions... appear to be a disturbing, if not absurdly comical, measure of her social consciousness. The suit’s allegations of journalistic misconduct are valid — Filler did, in fact, commit an egregious factual error in claiming that there had been 1,000 deaths on a project that had not yet begun construction. But the suit’s claims of damage done to Hadid’s reputation are serving as a counterattack against the architect's many critics, not an answer to their very legitimate concerns."
On misplaced focus: "Precautions to prevent the further loss of life could begin with a demand that the Qatari government, her engineer, AECOM, and the eventual project contractor engage in humane building practices. Instead of pursuing initiatives that would ensure worker safety and drastically distinguish her construction site from prevalent working conditions for laborers in Qatar, she pillories the press."
James Russell, nailing it: "Zaha Hadid Wins Defamation Battle, Loses Reputation War."