Rome's MAXXI architect Zaha Hadid dies

Rome's MAXXI museum in mourning over death of Zaha Hadid.

Giovanna Melandri, the president of Rome's MAXXI Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, has paid tribute to the museum's architect Zaha Hadid who died of a heart attack in a Miami hospital on 31 March, aged 65.

Melandri described the Iraqi-born London-based architect as "a great woman: creative and innovative", and said that news of her unexpected death was "particularly painful" to MAXXI whose design was selected from 273 entries in an international competition launched by Italy's culture ministry in 1998.

MAXXI's artistic director, Hou Hanru, hailed the futuristic design of the museum of 21st-century art, which opened in the Flaminio district in 2010, as "both a challenge and an inspiration for the museum's artists, curators and activities."

In February Hadid became the first woman to receive the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Gold Medal in recognition of her work, and was the recipient of the RIBA Stirling Prize, the UK's most prestigious architecture accolade, two years in a row.

MAXXI won the 2010 Stirling Prize for the European building that made the best contribution to British architecture, and just one month later the Rome museum claimed the 2010 World Architecture Festival (WAF) prize for the World Building of the Year.

Zahid received her second Stirling Prize in 2011 for the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton. Celebrated for her fluid, dramatic, experimental and visionary designs, the “starchitect” was also known for her prodigious work ethic and formidable personality.

Born in Baghdad in 1950, she began her studies at the Architectual Association in London in 1972 before opening her own practice in London in 1979. Her most noted conceptual designs include the London Olympic Aquatic Centre, the Riverside Museum at Glasgow's Museum of Transport, and Guangzhou Opera House in China.