I never thought that I would agree with Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi starchitect who has failed time and again to support the green building movement. But her dismissal of claims that the Al-Wakrah stadium looks like a vagina has my support.
When I covered the newly released Al-Wakrah stadium design, which Zaha Hadid worked on with AECOM, I was more interested in the way that both firms are helping Qatar achieve their goal to stage a carbon neutral World Cup in 2022.
This despite the blogosphere’s insistence that the design looks like a vagina. (By the way, my boyfriend pointed out that most people were erroneously referring to the vulva as a vagina!)
How disappointing I thought, and what a sign of the times, that even the Guardian stooped so low as to perpetuate the hype that Zaha Hadid had designed a stadium that resembles a woman’s most sacred anatomy for a Muslim nation. To do that deliberately would be suicide, not to mention deeply disrespectful.
“The design for Qatar’s new Al-Wakrah sports stadium has quickly gone viral,” the paper wrote, “with its shiny, pinkish tinge, its labia-like side appendages and its large opening in the middle, the supposedly innocent building (“based upon the design of a traditional Qatari dhow boat”) was just asking for trouble.”
Hadid dismisses this claptrap in an interview with Time Magazine.
“It’s really embarrassing that they come up with nonsense like this,” she complained. “What are they saying? Everything with a hole in it is a vagina? That’s ridiculous.”
To be fair, the digital age has pushed us all to fight for hits and traffic in order to stay afloat, and the word vagina in any title is sure to get a lot of attention, but the Guardian’s Holly Baxter concludes with a statement that is so clearly out of touch with Qatar’s culture, the paper should be mortified.
“Perhaps the bigwigs who will be running the stadium should embrace this so-called faux pas and rebrand it as a deliberate nod towards the increasingly liberal Qatari policies concerning women in sport,” she wrote.
Qatar may be liberalizing their policies, but they would never sanction a building that mimics female genitalia. We’re talking about a region where free hugs can get a person arrested, for goodness sakes!
Sure, we are far less indignant when people describe skyscrapers as phallic (and most are), which admittedly underscores a serious double standard – a point that Hadid makes.
“Honestly, if a guy had done this project…,” she says.
But Qatar has much bigger issues to worry about – like whether or not they are going to change their policies to ensure that people building these stadiums will actually survive working conditions akin to modern day slavery (a story, ironically, the otherwise respectable Guardian broke) – than to stave off the media’s wanton lust for attention.