Dubai developer Omniyat sets up Harvard scholarship in name of Zaha Hadid

Omniyat, the property developer that brought “starchitect” Zaha Hadid to Dubai, has sponsored a Harvard scholarship in her honour.

Omniyat, whose Dh2.5 billion signature building, the Opus, was designed by the late Iraqi-born British architect, said that it had helped to set up a fellowship at Harvard Graduate School of Design to provide financial aid to architecture students from the Middle East.

The Zaha Hadid/Omniyat Fellowship Fund will provide assistance to students who are studying for master’s degrees in architecture at the school and are residents or citizens of Middle Eastern countries.

The scholarship honours Hadid, who taught at the school in 1986 and 1994. She died of a heart attack in March at the age of 65. She was the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture prize in 2004 and received the Sterling Prize for architecture in 2010 and 2011.

Although Omniyat’s Zaha ­Hadid-designed, mixed-use Opus building had been scheduled for completion by the end of 2009, construction was hit by the global financial crisis and design complications.

The building, which includes a “void” section in the middle created with 4,300 individually shaped glass panels, is scheduled to be finished by the end of this year. It will not open until next year, after a 12-month fit- out period.

Last month, Omniyat said that about half of the building’s 90 serviced apartments remain unsold, but many are being retained by the developer and will be rented out as hotel suites.

Hadid’s second Dubai project – Signature Towers, an amalgamation of three intertwining towers on the edge of Business Bay – was unveiled in 2007 but has not been built.

“When I established Omniyat in 2005, I was motivated by my desire to develop uncompromising creative signature buildings,” said Mahdi Amjad, its founder and executive chairman.

“I was fortunate enough to have worked for 10 years with my dear friend and design mentor Dame Zaha Hadid on the creation of our flagship Opus building in the heart of Dubai.”

Dubai’s futuristic landscape and ambitions to create some of the world’s tallest and most bizarre buildings continues to attract the world’s biggest architects.

Yesterday, Dubai Design District, the new area designated for creative businesses, announced that Hadid’s practice, Zaha Hadid Architects, was among four international firms of architects due to open offices in the development.

Santiago Calatrava, Foster + Partners and Benoy will also open offices in the district, which has come to be known as d3.

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