Zaha Hadid's light-filled labyrinth

Updated 1121 GMT (1921 HKT) September 28, 2012
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Continuing the coverage of "Great Buildings" on CNN, Zaha Hadid names her favorite pieces of architecture. Her most cherished commision is the National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome, completed in 2009, known as the MAXXI. "I like that period of [my] work," she says. Iwan Baan
"The idea was to flood the site like a delta. The main buildings are like rivers and the smaller veins are like the bridges, and the art flows seamlessly through these rooms," the British architect said. Watch Zaha Hadid on "Great Buildings." Iwan Baan
This painting shows how the building plan took shape. "The site was a car factory converted into a military barracks and the big decision was [whether] to keep the barracks or demolish them," Hadid says. "I decided consciously to demolish them because I thought a new institution for contemporary art should not be housed in an existing building." Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects
"There is a geometry which is always adjusting to the geometry of the site. Every move in the building is parallel to something else, and when you walk around it, you notice it." Iwan Baan
"It has natural light coming from the whole roof, because it's a very horizontal museum. Everywhere, you have light coming through." Iwan Baan
Although the building is new, it's "not necessarily very loud," Hadid says. "It's big, but quite modest." Iwan Baan
"The Romans love it. It's always completely packed. Every afternoon, the elderly come and meet there. They bring their chairs and sit down and it becomes a plaza. That's very nice," she says. Iwan Baan
Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq, Hadid says she has wanted to be an architect since she was 10. Courtesy Zaha Hadid
One of Hadid's favorite buildings is the Mezquita Cathedral of Cordoba in Andalusia, Spain. It sparked her first interest in architecture when she visited as a child. Laura P. Maestro/CNN
"I didn't realise how obviously it was in my mind until I went back a few years ago to see the great mosque again," Hadid says. Getty Images/Oliver Strewe
Returning, she was awed again. "I just thought it was an amazing space. I didn't understand as a child how amazing. But it was amazing because it was a hybrid. It's an existing [mosque] with the cathedral dropped in it. They bring in light from a darker space -- almost like a modern project," she said. Laura P. Maestro/CNN
The Moorish arch at the entrance to the Mosque (or Mezquita) in Cordoba. It was consecrated as a Christian church in 1236, and in the 16th century, a cathedral nave was built in its center. Archive Photos/Getty Images
Being an architect can be "very difficult" and "very painful," Hadid says. "You have no control over what happens, no control over money, no control over the client. Things can change constantly and it requires so much effort to make a good building." But "as a profession, it's a great idea," she says. "Incredible when you perfect your game. There is nothing as satisfying." Steve Double
Hadid also designed the Glasgow Riverside Museum of Transport, which flows low and long between the city and the waterfront, facing the Clyde river with a wave-shaped outline. Hufton + Crow
Another riverside project, the Guangzhou Opera House in China, completed in 2010, has smooth lines which Hadid compares to "pebbles in a stream smoothed by erosion." Virgile Simon Bertrand, courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects
Fluidity has always characterized Hadid's style, as seen in this cable railway station in Innsbruck, Austria, completed in 2007. But, she says, her buildings do change. "In the earlier period, every project was different from the one before, although we learnt from our own repertoire. We were always trying to reinvent the language, but now we just try to perfect it." Werner Huthmacher
Hadid won international acclaim for the Aquatics Centre she designed for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Hufton + Crow
Although based in London since 1979, her first public commission there wasn't until 2009, when she designed the Evelyn Grace Academy, a school in Brixton, south London, for which she won the 2011 RIBA Stirling Prize. Luke Hayes, courtesty Zaha Hadid Architects
In another career milestone, Hadid designed her first tower for Marseilles shipping company CGA CGM in 2011. Its swirling base was inspired by voluminous skirts. Christian Richters, courtesty Zaha Hadid Architects
One of her most recent projects is the Pierresvives building for the Department de l'Herault in Montpellier, France. Her design was inspired by rock crevices, and the resulting interplay of light. Helene Binet, courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects
The Pierresvives houses an archive, a library and a sports department, and is Hadid's first building in France. Helene Binet, courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects
As well as buildings, Hadid has designed a Louis Vuitton handbag, a tea and coffee set and vase for Alessi, furniture and lighting, and these plastic shoes for Brazilian footwear brand Melissa. David Grandorge, courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects
She also designed a 3-wheel car, and this 8-person speedboat for art dealer Kenny Schachter, due in production next year. For more on the architects on "Great Buildings" click here. Zaha Hadid Architects