When I was a kid I wanted to be an architect. More precisely, my father wanted me to be an architect. I remember taking drawing classes and being semi-dedicated to it until I realized that math was required. Had I continued down that path Zaha Hadid is a name that I would’ve known and studied. She was an architect who designed some iconic, world famous buildings and blazed a trail while doing it. The World is Not a Rectangle, a Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jenette Winter is about Zaha’s inspiration as a child, how they weaved themselves into her creations and the struggles she faced professionally.
Hadid grew up in Iraq and we see demonstrations of the green marshes and sand dunes that would go on to inspire her buildings. While she’s home she imagines herself designing cities, much like thriving areas that have since become the ruins she explores with her father.
When it came time to attend university she went to London where she studies architecture and graduates with honors. She starts her own company and proceeds to paint and draw for any competition or contract. After a while a pattern starts to build in her responses. They say they can’t be built, that they’re impossible, she’s a woman or an Arab.
But, she doesn’t give up, she keeps on drawing, “The world is not a rectangle”, she would say. She keeps drawing and her hard work pays off with her being commissioned to design Al Wakrah Stadium in Qatar, Guangzhou Opera House in Guangzhou, China, the Bergisel Ski Jump in Innsbruck, Austria and many others.
Even if you don’t study architecture you’ll recognize some of the buildings that she designed. The buildings are presented in a more abstract fashion in the middle of the book, with the inspiration showing the building-without mentioning what it is. You’ll think to yourself that it looks familiar, but might not know what it is. Thankfully at the end of the book we’re shown those images again with the building’s name and location beside it.
Earlier we looked at A Pocket Full of Colors, which is the story of a Disney artist whose path to success was similar to Hadid’s. The World is Not a Rectangle has lessons that anybody, especially girls or minorities can relate to and be empowered by. The text in the book is on par so that ages 8 and younger will be able to enjoy it, with ages 7 and up will be able to read it. The World is Not a Rectangle is by Jeanette Winter and published by Simon & Schuster.