In Brief

Iraq Issues Odd Zaha Hadid Stamps

The new Zaha Hadid stamp (screenshot via Facebook)
The new Zaha Hadid stamp (screenshot via Facebook)

Zaha Hadid, who died of a heart attack nearly three months ago at the age of 65, is now commemorated in a new stamp issued by the Iraqi government. The tribute to the Iraqi-British architect, which features her face alongside illustrations of some of her projects, however, is a little odd.

Let’s start with the portrait. As Dezeen reported, whoever designed the 750 dinars (~$0.65 USD) stamp sourced the image from not one, but two photographs: her face arrives from a headshot taken after she received the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s 2016 Royal Gold Medal; her attire, from a portrait taken for TIME’s “100 issue” from 2010. The resulting marriage is a pretty poor Photoshop job, with a weird smear of sheer fabric brushing Hadid’s chin, and her face slightly stretched — the outcomes, I imagine, of the designer’s attempts to tweak transparencies and make Hadid’s head properly fit her garments. Sure, maybe the original black ensemble she had on for her award portrait doesn’t make for the most vibrant outfit to feature, but surely the Iraqi government could receive the rights to at least one nice shot of Hadid to showcase for such an important recognition?

Zaha Hadid announced as 2016 Royal Gold Medal winner Photo by @maryamccartney #Zahahadid #riba

A photo posted by Zaha Hadid Architects (@zahahadidarchitects) on

The late architect appears against an image of the wave-like Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan’s Baku, as well as her vision for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium. The latter, though, was yet another poor creative choice on the part of the stamp-makers: the structure was plagued with controversy, with the Japanese government ultimately rejecting Hadid’s plans three years after she won the design contest as they proved too costly. Her firm then began arguing with Olympic organizers over ownership of the copyrighted plans. Of the dozens upon dozens of finished buildings Hadid has created, why not choose her never-to-be stadium to immortalize in an immaculate, gleaming visual?

The stamp was just one of two the government has just introduced. Iraqi architect Mohamed Makiya, who passed away last year at 101, also received his own tribute on the 1,000 Dinars (~$0.86 USD) stamp. The visuals all seem fine — his portrait is simply his headshot, flipped horizontally, and set against an image of the Khulafa Mosque in Baghdad, which he helped extend; but the stamp seems to introduce a new English spelling for the architect’s name, which is fairly established.

All in all, the initiative is definitely a thoughtful gesture and significant way to honor the nation’s esteemed architects. But honestly, I’m mostly disappointed the Iraqi Postal Company didn’t go all out and adhere to the design aesthetics of its website, an incredibly (albeit likely unintentional) fine exemplar of “Web brutalism.”

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An alternative Zaha Hadid stamp (image by the author for Hyperallergic)
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