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Architect who first imagined, then proved, that space could work in radical new ways


In the London of the early 1980s, when Zaha Hadid, who has died aged 65 after a heart attack, first opened her own office in a small room in a redundant Victorian school in Clerkenwell, the idea that she might one day become one of the world’s most celebrated and successful architects would have seemed far-fetched. At a time when most architects were still under the lash of the Prince of Wales, camouflaging their work with a constipated brick and tile skin, or decorating their facades with fragments of postmodern confectionery, Hadid was not building anything. She was working night after night, essentially living in the drawings that flowed from her pen in an apparently unstoppable flood. They conjured up glimpses of a world she had imagined but which did not, as yet, exist. For those who didn’t get it, her work was seen as just too difficult. And she wasn’t going to try to ingratiate herself with those who did not understand her.

The most visible results of that period are a series of huge paintings that hinted at what she might build if she had the chance. They did not depict anything that could be conventionally identified as a building, but instead showed jagged landscapes in which walls and roofs, inside and outside, ground plan and cross section, merged seamlessly one into another. They were more like Piranesi dreamscapes than rational proposals for orthogonal buildings. But these were not abstractions or fantasies: they were the product of Hadid’s exploration of new ways to imagine how space might work, inspired in part by the drawings of the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich, whom she discovered when she was still a student.

The most famous of them were made for the competition she won in 1983 to design a resort complex in Hong Kong, known as The Peak. A series of overlapping cantilevers jutted out into space, providing layers of accommodation, bars and restaurants, as well as hotel rooms. The eminent engineer Peter Rice, who had worked on the Pompidou Centre in Paris, endorsed them as entirely buildable, but the client turned out not to have the cash. It was a failure to launch that is common in most architectural careers, where unbuilt schemes outnumber built projects by a large margin. But in Hadid’s case it was the start of what became a persistent theme for her critics. Hong Kong was not built; neither, 10 years later, was the Cardiff Bay Opera House. Most recently, her competition-winning design for Tokyo’s Olympic stadium was scrapped. She was blamed for all these, unfairly attacked for her personality as well as her competence.

The ideas that she was working through in the 1980s were most convincingly realised in the Heydar Aliyev centre, the cultural complex that she built in Baku, Azerbaijan, 30 years later. It resembles a gravity-defying snow-white iceberg that erupts from the ground like a twisting rollercoaster. And unlike some of her projects in which corners have been cut by builders in a hurry, Baku was beautifully finished, inside and out. Her critics saw this building as the glorification of a repressive and sinisterly authoritarian regime. For Hadid, it was the product of the negotiation with power that has always been part of the practice of architecture.

Hadid belonged to the last generation of architects to work with tracing paper and T-squares. She talked about the care with which she would use a Rotring pen and a ruler to draw. The trick, she said, was to ensure that there was no overlap when she joined two lines to make a sharp point at the corner of a rectangle. Despite these beginnings, she built a modern architectural office equipped with ranks of computers, and sophisticated parametric modelling software, in which rows of assistants sit working at screens plugged into headphones.

She was able to navigate a huge jump in the scale of her office. When she started out, a large architectural practice was 25 people. With her architectural partner Patrik Schumacher, she built a practice of 400. She took over the entire school building in which she had started, spread into a second building, and had plans to set up in the US. It is an operation that will certainly continue to make a mark: as Schumacher once said, the only way to be relevant against a background in which architecture is being defined by ever larger buildings is for an architectural practice to grow.

Skyscrapers and airports do not get built by lone geniuses; they require depths of complex administrative and professional expertise. Hadid was able to create one of the world’s most important architectural practices, one that, at the time of her death, was working in China, the Middle East, America and Russia. She built an extraordinary range of buildings: the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London, the Maxxi art museum in Rome (the RIBA Stirling prize winner in 2010), a car factory for BMW in Leipzig, Germany, a skyscraper complex in Beijing, an opera house in Guangzhou, an exhibition centre in the middle of Seoul. She was asked to work on projects from Libya to Saudi Arabia, and even on the Central Bank of Iraq.

She was able to make architecture that, though it had its roots in what was once called the avant garde, was genuinely popular. When the Design Museum in London gave Hadid her first British retrospective in 2007, it was the most successful architecture show the museum had ever staged. She went with remarkable speed from being regarded as unbuildably radical to the mainstream. In 2004 she became the first woman to win the Pritzker prize for architecture and this year the first to be awarded the RIBA royal gold medal in her own right. She was appointed CBE in 2002, and in 2012 she was made a dame.
Daughter of Mohammad Hadid and Wajiha al-Sabunji, she was born in Baghdad. Her father was a liberal politician who sent Zaha to a convent school despite being a Muslim. One of her brothers, Foulath, became an Oxford academic – Zaha later built a library for his college, St Antony’s. She grew up in a secular, modernising Baghdad at a time when Le Corbusier had been commissioned to build a sports complex, Frank Lloyd Wright was working on a cultural centre, and Walter Gropius had built a university campus. These were projects that she acknowleged might have inspired her choice of career, and certainly gave her a sense of the transformative power of architecture.

Later she went to an English boarding school, gained a maths degree at the American University of Beirut, and then, most importantly, studied at the Architectural Association school in London. The AA had become a hothouse, a licensed opposition in which dissidents and dreamers created an architecture, mainly on paper, that had nothing to do with the bleak architectural climate of the time.

The school in those days was led by Alvin Boyarsky, whom Hadid always cited as one of her most important influences. Her two most important teachers, apparently at the opposite ends of the architectural spectrum, were Leon Krier, who went on to become a close adviser to the Prince of Wales, and Rem Koolhaas, who uses the world brutal as a compliment. For many years, both Krier and Koolhaas presented building as a kind of sell-out. Hadid matched their reluctance to compromise but was always determined to build.

Hadid was given her first chance to make architecture on her own terms by Rolf Fehlbaum, owner of the Vitra furniture company. She designed a small building in Weil am Rhein, on the German border with Switzerland, to house the fire engine for the company’s volunteer fire brigade. It was a dynamic composition based on seemingly razor-sharp shards of concrete. When the fire brigade disbanded, the building was converted for a new role as part of the company’s museum. But the changes gave rise to an entirely inaccurate story that its shape had made it impractical.

As time went on, her buildings became less characterised by sharp lines, and turned more fluid, often taking forms that looked like spilt mercury. The change was in part a reflection of the transformation of the building industry made possible by new digital modelling programmes and new technologies. The engineers she worked with on such projects as the Phaeno Science centre, in Wolfsburg, Germany, were doing things with steel that would have been impossible a generation earlier. She was ready to explore the design of the smallest of objects, from cutlery to wine bottles, to the largest urban masterplans.

Her breakthrough project in Britain should have been the Cardiff Bay Opera House, a commission that she won against 400 entrants in an international competition in 1994. She proposed a design that ingeniously managed to be appropriately monumental for a national institution, but at the same time provided an injection of urbanity to what at the time was an empty wasteland. It was torpedoed by the Millennium Commission which, when invited to fund it, hilariously declared it to be insufficiently distinctive. Years later, it was replaced by an unmemorable design that had little to recommend it – except that it was not by Hadid.


Hadid was caricatured by those who did not know her as difficult, and too ready to build for despotic regimes. The most bizarre claim was made by Martin Filler in the New York Review of Books in 2014. He suggested that many workers had died on the site of one of her projects for a stadium in Qatar. It was an accusation that both magazine and writer were forced to retract when it was pointed out that work had not yet started. Nevertheless the claim was repeated by an inadequately briefed BBC interviewer. In what was presented as an interview to celebrate her nomination for the royal gold medal for architecture, an honour that involved having her name carved in the walls of the RIBA, she was asked about the deaths. Hadid rebutted the claim, and lost her composure only when asked why it was that people thought she was difficult.

Hadid was not afraid to show her feelings. When she did not like what an employee, or even a client, had done, she did not hold back from telling them what she thought. But when she liked someone, she was an unconditional, warm and loyal friend, with a sharp wit. Dinner with Hadid was like a session with Dorothy Parker at the round table. She was an accomplished mimic, with an interest in gossip. Those who left the table too early ran the risk that they would become the subject of the conversation.

She was fascinated by fashion, and had a spectacular dress sense, quickly graduating from Issey Miyake to Miuccia Prada. She celebrated her birthdays in style. One year, she laid on a display of synchronised swimming – a skill in which she suggested she had once been proficient – in the Olympic pool that she had designed. Another year, she produced belly dancers, and a dining table running from one end of the Burlington Arcade to the other.

Hadid’s architectural output reflected the shifting global landscape, which at the close of the 20th century was moving beyond northwest Europe and America, where modern architecture began. She was one of the first to build on a large scale in China, where she completed two extraordinary complexes in Beijing, involving a mix of high-rises and lower blocks.

She would, however, certainly have liked to build more in Britain. Her Olympic Aquatics Centre, now shorn of the unsightly banks of spectator seating grafted on for the duration of the Games, has been transformed into a bustling and successful neighbourhood swimming pool. There is the Maggie’s Centre on the edge of Kirkcaldy, the Glasgow Riverside Museum of Transport on the banks of the Clyde, a school in south London (the Evelyn Grace academy, Brixton, which won the Stirling prize in 2011), and a restaurant and exhibition space for the Serpentine Gallery, London.

Throughout her career, she was a dedicated teacher, enthused by the energy of the young. She was not keen to be characterised as a woman architect, or an Arab architect. She was simply an architect.

She is survived by a brother, Haytham.

• Zaha Hadid, architect, born 31 October 1950; died 31 March 2016


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We have concluded that demand matters for productivity growth and that increasing demand is key to restarting growth across advanced economies, write James Manyika, Jaana Remes, and Jan Mischke in Harvard Business Review.

A little over a century ago, Henry Ford doubled the minimum pay of his workers to $5 a day. When other employers followed suit, it became clear that Ford had sparked a chain reaction. Higher pay throughout the industry helped lead to more sales, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity. Could we be at another Henry Ford moment?

Some major companies have announced plans to boost employee pay. Target raised its minimum wage to $11 this past fall and committed to $15 by 2020. More recently, Walmart announced plans to match that increase to $11. In banking, Wells Fargo and Fifth Third Bancorp also announced pay increases for minimum wage employees.

These pay increases have occurred against a backdrop of weak economic growth and rising income inequality. Economic growth has been stuck in low gear for almost a decade now, averaging around 2% a year since 2010 while productivity growth, the key to increasing living standards, has been languishing near historic lows since the financial crisis. But more recently there has been a glimmer of hope. After stagnating for years, wages have begun picking up slightly, as has productivity growth, while corporate profits remain near record highs.

Are these recent wage increases merely necessary in light of a tightening labor market, or could they start a broader trend that may change our economic growth trajectory?

After a year-long analysis of seven developed countries and six sectors, we have concluded that demand matters for productivity growth and that increasing demand is key to restarting growth across advanced economies.

The impact of demand on productivity growth is often underappreciated. Looking closer at the period following the financial crisis, 2010 to 2014, we find that weak demand played a key role in the recent productivity growth decline to historic lows. In fact, about half of the slowdown in productivity growth — from an average of 2.4% in the United States and Western Europe in 2000 to 2004 to 0.5% a decade later — was due to weak demand and uncertainty.

For example, in the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, rising consumer purchasing power boosted productivity growth in both the retail and the auto sector, by encouraging a shift to higher-value goods that can be supplied at higher productivity levels. In the auto sector, as customers in the early 2000s purchased higher value-added SUVs and premium vehicles in both the United States and Germany, they spurred incremental productivity growth of 0.4 to 0.5 percentage points. Today, that trend has slowed slightly in both countries, contributing only 0.3 percentage points to productivity growth in the period 2010 to 2014.

Similarly, in retail, we estimate that consumers shifting to higher-value goods, for example higher-value wines or premium yogurts, contributed 45% to the 1995-2000 retail productivity acceleration in the United States. This subsequently waned, dragging down productivity growth.

To put it simply, when consumers have more to spend, they buy more sophisticated things. That’s good not just for consumers and producers, but for the overall economy, because making more sophisticated, higher-value things makes everyone involve more productive, and therefore helps increase overall standards of living.

In addition, we found two other ways weak demand hurt productivity growth in the aftermath of the financial crisis: a reduction in economies of scale and weak investment.

First, the economies of scale effect. In finance, productivity growth declined particularly in the United States, United Kingdom, and Spain due to contractions in lending volumes that banks were unable to fully offset with staff cuts due to the need for fixed labor (for example to support branch networks and IT infrastructure or to deal with existing loans and bad debt). The utilities sector, which has seen flattening demand growth due to both energy efficiency policies as well as a decline in economic activity during the crisis, was similarly not able to downsize labor due to the need for labor to support electricity distribution and the grid infrastructure, and here, too, productivity growth fell.

Second, the effect of weak investment. We have found from our global surveys of businesses that almost half of companies that are increasing their investment budgets are doing so because of an increase in demand. Demand is the single most important factor driving corporate investment decisions. Investment, in turn, is critical for productivity growth, as it equips workers with more – and with more recent and innovative – equipment, software, and structures. But we have seen capital intensity growth fall to the lowest levels in post-WWII history. Weaker demand leads to weaker investment and creates a vicious cycle for productivity and income growth.

Of course, the financial crisis is long since over, and the economy has recovered, at least by some measures. So what’s to worry about? Won’t demand return to pre-recession levels, and thereby increase productivity?

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that some of the drags on demand for goods and services may be more structural than crises-related. Slowing population growth means less rapid expansion of the pool of consumers. And rising income inequality is shifting purchasing power from those most likely to spend to those more likely to save. This is reflected in slowing growth expectations in many markets. For example, across our sectors and countries studied, in the decade from 1995 to 2004, growth in demand for goods and services averaged 4.6%, slowed to 2.3% in 2010 to 2014, and is forecast to slightly increase to 2.8% in 2014 to 2020.

Today, there is concern about where the next wave of growth will come from. Some prominent economists worry that we may be stuck in a vicious cycle of economic underperformance for some time. Our analyses strongly suggest that supporting sustained demand growth needs to be part of the answer. Demand may deserve attention to help boost productivity growth not only during the recovery from the financial crisis but also in terms of longer-term structural leakages and their impact on productivity. Suitable tools for this longer-term situation include: focusing on productive investment as a fiscal priority, growing the purchasing power of low-income consumers with the highest propensity to consume, unlocking private business and residential investment, and supporting worker training and transition programs to ensure that periods of transition do not disrupt incomes.

Companies play a key role in promoting growth through investment and innovation as well as supporting their workforce through training programs. Yet companies may also want to consider the words of Ford when he said: “The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.” While this is certainly not true for individual companies, it is true for the broader economy, and we might be at a rare point where the representatives of employees and employers alike share a common interest in healthy wage growth.





Source:  Harvard Business Review.

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Shifts in skills are not new: we have seen such a shift from physical to cognitive tasks, and more recently to digital skills. But the coming shift in workforce skills could be massive in scale, write Jacques Bughin, Susan Lund, and Eric Hazin in Harvard Business Review.

President Emmanuel Macron together with many Silicon Valley CEOs will kick off the VivaTech conference in Paris this week with the aim of showcasing the “good” side of technology. Our research highlights some of those benefits, especially the productivity growth and performance gains that automation and artificial intelligence can bring to the economy — and to society more broadly, if these technologies are used to tackle major issues such as fighting disease and tackling climate change. But we also note some critical challenges that need to be overcome. Foremost among them: a massive shift in the skills that we will need in the workplace in the future.

To see just how big those shifts could be, our latest research analyzed skill requirements for individual work activities in more than 800 occupations to examine the number of hours that the workforce spends on 25 core skills today. We then estimated the extent to which these skill requirements could change by 2030, as automation and artificial technologies are deployed in the workplace, and backed up our findings with a detailed survey of more than 3,000 business leaders in seven countries, who largely confirmed our quantitative findings. We grouped the 25 skills into five categories: physical and manual (which is the largest category today), basic cognitive, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and technological skills (today’s smallest category).

The findings highlight the major challenge confronting our workforces, our economies, and the well-being of our societies. Among other priorities, they show the urgency of putting in place large-scale retraining initiatives for a majority of workers who will be affected by automation — initiatives that are sorely lacking today.

Shifts in skills are not new: we have seen such a shift from physical to cognitive tasks, and more recently to digital skills. But the coming shift in workforce skills could be massive in scale. To give a sense of magnitude: more than one in three workers may need to adapt their skills’ mix by 2030, which is more than double the number who could be displaced by automation under some of our adoption scenarios — and lifelong learning of new skills will be essential for all. With the advent of AI, basic cognitive skills, such as reading and basic numeracy, will not suffice for many jobs, while demand for advanced technological skills, such as coding and programming, will rise, by 55% in 2030, according to our analysis.

The need for social and emotional skills including initiative taking and leadership will also rise sharply, by 24%, and among higher cognitive skills, creativity and complex information and problem solving will also become significantly more important. These are often seen as “soft” skills that schools and education systems in general are not set up to impart. Yet in a more automated future, when machines are capable of taking on many more rote tasks, these skills will become increasingly important — precisely because machines are still far from able to provide expertise and coaching, or manage complex relationships.

While many people fear that automation will reduce the number of jobs for humans, we note that the diffusion of AI will take time. The need for basic cognitive skills as well as physical and manual skills will not disappear. In fact, physical and manual skills will remain the largest skill category in many countries by hours worked, but with different importance across countries. In France and the United Kingdom, for example, manual skills will be overtaken by demand for social and emotional skills, while in Germany, higher cognitive skills will become preeminent. These country differences are the result of different industry mixes in each country, which in turn affect the automation potential of economies and the future skills mix. While we based our estimates on the automation potential of sectors and countries today, this could change depending on the pace and enthusiasm with which AI is adopted in companies, sectors, and countries. Already, it is clear that China is moving rapidly to become a leading AI player, and Asia as a whole is ahead of Europe in the volume of AI investment.

We see retraining (or “reskilling” as some like to call it), as the imperative of the coming decade. It is a challenge not just for companies, which are on the front lines, but also for educational institutions, industry and labor groups, philanthropists, and of course, policy makers, who will need to find new ways to incentivize investments in human capital.

For companies, these shifts are part of the larger automation challenge that will require a thorough rethink of how work is organized within firms — including what the strategic workforce needs are likely to be, and how to set about achieving them. In our research, we find some examples of companies that are focusing on retraining, either in-house — for example, Germany’s SAP — or by working with outside educational institutions, as AT&T is doing. Overall, our survey suggests that European firms are more likely to fill future staffing needs in the new automation era by focusing on retraining, while US firms are more open to new hiring. The starting point for all of this will be a mindset change, with companies seeking to measure future success by their ability to provide continuous learning options to employees.

The skill shift is not only a challenge, it is an opportunity. If companies and societies are able to equip workers with the new skills that are needed, the upside will be considerable, in terms of higher productivity growth, rising wages, and increased prosperity. M. Macron’s point about technology being a force for good will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversely, a failure to address these shifting skill demands could exacerbate income polarization and stoke political and social tensions. The stakes are high, but we can already see the outlines of what needs to be done — and we have a little time to work on solutions.




Source: Harvard Business Review

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Companies using AI to innovate are more likely to increase employment, writes Jacques Bughin in MIT Sloan Management Review.

When pundits talk about the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on the labor market, the outlook is usually bleak, with the loss of many jobs to machines as the dominant theme. But that’s just part of the story — a probable outcome for companies that use AI only to increase efficiency. As it turns out, companies using AI to also drive innovation are more likely to increase head count than reduce it.

That’s what my colleagues and I recently learned through the McKinsey Global Institute’s broad-based research initiative aimed at understanding the spread of AI in economies, sectors, and companies.1 We polled 20,000 AI-aware C-level executives in 10 countries to compile a sample of more than 3,000 companies (mostly large), identified distinct clusters within that pool, and ran a variety of scenarios on those clusters to project the effects of AI on employment, revenue, and profitability.

This research and analysis suggest that although AI will probably lead to less overall full-time-equivalent employment by 2030, it won’t inevitably lead to massive unemployment. One major reason for this prediction is because early, innovation-focused adopters are positioning themselves for growth, which tends to stimulate employment. (See “How AI-Based Innovations Drive Employment.”)

Here’s how we expect things to play out in the five clusters of companies we examined.

Enthusiastic innovators, or pioneering companies that make early investments in AI and embrace the disruption it can create in the quest for advantage, adopt a full range of AI technologies and use them to bolster innovation and efficiency. These companies are analogous to what sociologist and communication theorist Everett Rogers called “early adopters” back when he coined the term — they’re intrinsically motivated to use new technology to shape and open markets.2 While this approach is potentially complex in the short term, our analysis shows that by 2030, the profitability of enthusiastic innovators will grow 8% faster than that of the average company on an annual basis, their revenue will grow 4% faster, and their head count will rise 2.2% faster.

Source: MIT Sloan Management

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