Written by Staff Writer
When designer Zaha Hadid died in 2016, the world lost one of the greatest designers of her generation and also someone who was arguably one of the architects most committed to community service.
Her last, extraordinarily complex, highly public project was a design project for a gender-neutral college dormitory in rural Afghanistan, which was set to become the first major contribution to a country that has been without any independent government structure for over 30 years.
Now her design has failed to get the go-ahead. Hadid’s in-progress design has now been criticized by one of the top architects in the country, who takes issue with the fact that Hadid didn’t include separate bedrooms for men and women.
“Architecture and architects should have an opinion, be intellectual beings,” Kapoor tells CNN. “Zaha Hadid is a famous architect and she doesn’t live by the opinions of just people in her profession. That is unacceptable and oppressive.”
Kapoor’s protest comes at a time when the Afghan government is actively looking to attract foreign aid. According to Omar Zakhilwal, the head of Afghanistan’s national bureau of Statistics, foreign funding for the country dropped 37% last year. But, since 2015, the European Union has pledged to support Afghanistan with €1.1 billion ($1.2 billion) over four years, in an effort to move the war-torn country out of debt, and he hoped that the government would see Kapoor’s letter and react positively.
“But I think the government didn’t take kindly to the criticism, and that maybe it’s because, in their minds, it’s not a designer’s issue, it’s a political issue and they want to avoid a debate. If I’m a man in my country I’m not going to argue with a woman, I’m going to argue with my country,” Kapoor says.
Kapoor has previously spoken out about sexism in the design industry. He notes that he’s also recently been approached by a colleague to design a hotel in the Maldives — for a much larger fee.
“When you see that women are excluded from certain fields, you start to question your reason to exist,” he says. “I think it’s really sad to be able to build a community by not having a community.”
In an interview with CNN, Kapoor said: “It feels very much like we’re playing in a soap opera, that this story will soon be over. I think it’s ridiculous to think that people in the city of Brussels, who have never been to Afghanistan, have the right to say what is ethical in somebody else’s workplace.”