Architect Zaha Hadid sues the New York Review of Books

Zaha Hadid
Architect Zaha Hadid has filed suit against the New York Review of Books.
(Evan Agostini / Invision/AP)

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid filed suit against the New York Review of Books last week over a book review that she claimed defamed her. It’s rare for book reviews and other works of criticism to generate legal action.

The suit was filed in New York over a review of the book “Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture” by Rowan Moore that appeared in the NYRB. In the suit, Hadid claimed that reviewer Martin Filler improperly called her reputation into question and falsely implied her indifference to alleged difficult working conditions of migrant workers on large Middle East construction projects, Reuters reports. Hadid has designed the Al Wakrah stadium, which will be the location of the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar.

In the review, which ranged beyond the book itself, Filler wrote that Hadid “has unashamedly disavowed any responsibility, let alone concern, for the estimated one thousand laborers who have perished while constructing her project so far. ‘I have nothing to do with it,’ Hadid has claimed. ‘It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it.’”

Hadid said her statement was taken out of context -- and furthermore, that construction on the Al Wakrah stadium has not yet begun.


The quote comes from a February press event, at which Hadid said, “I have nothing to do with the workers. I think that’s an issue the government – if there’s a problem – should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved.”

Filler has acceded that he made an error. The New York Times quotes his letter, which is being appended to the NYRB online review. “There have been no worker deaths on the Al Wakrah project and Ms. Hadid’s comments about Qatar that l quoted in the review had nothing to do with the Al Wakrah site or any of her projects,” it says. He adds, “I regret the error.”

Whether that will be enough to satisfy Hadid and her lawyers is not yet known. “We are in receipt of Mr. Filler’s retraction issued today and are aware of the New York Review of Books’ plan to post it,” her attorney Oren Warshavsky told Reuters. “Ms. Hadid together with counsel are reviewing it now and will respond after further careful consideration.”

Book news and conversation; I’m @paperhaus on Twitter


Get the latest news and notes from our Book Club.