By the early 1980s, when Hadid was in her early thirties, she’d become famous in architectural circles for her passionate lectures, innovative ideas, and spellbinding sketches, which look more like abstract paintings than renderings. “Abstraction,” she said when she won the 2004 Pritzker Prize, “opened the possibility of unfettered invention.” But despite her popularity, developers weren’t biting on Hadid’s proposals—they were too complex to erect. At least, that is, until she won her first major in bid in 1983 for The Peak Project, a leisure club perched high in the mountains above Hong Kong. “It was the first intimation to many in the architecture world,” wrote Seabrook, “that she might be more than a ‘paper architect.’”
While the building was never erected (the project ran out of funds), Hadid’s design reinvented mountain architecture by approaching the treacherous, rocky landscape as a malleable material that could be carved into and imitated, rather than competed with. In The Peak Project, she proposed a network of subterranean cavities, floating platforms, and polished structures that resembled a scattering of boulders or the craggy, porous faces of cliffs. Together, the elements looked like a building that had exploded, then melted into the surrounding topography.
Hadid’s preparatory paintings for the project entered history books—and international architectural consciousness—when they were included in the Museum of Modern Art
’s game-changing 1988 “Deconstructivist Architecture” exhibition. They revealed Hadid’s ability to harness sensations like motion, entropy, and growth within static structures. As architecture critic Thomas de Monchaux described
it, the designs captured “all the energies and geometries of a place, like an invisible roller coaster manifesting around you, [sweeping] you up to a mountaintop.”