How we met: Julia Peyton-Jones & Zaha Hadid

'You can go to any opening of hers around the world and you're quite likely to find friends she has had for years'

Zaha Hadid DBE, 62

Born in Baghdad, the Anglo-Iraqi Hadid (right in picture) is one of the world's most celebrated architects. London has been her base for the past 40 years, her most recent project being the Sackler Gallery, an undulating white canopy to the side of a Grade II-listed former gunpowder depot, as the latest extension to the Serpentine Gallery

Julia says we met in about 1994. I'm not very good with dates, but I do know that I became involved with the Serpentine in about 1995, 1996, when Lord Palumbo [former chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain] invited me on to the Board of Trustees. I recall that I was asked to design a temporary space for a bookshop of theirs. It didn't happen, but then my role there was as an adviser. It was never part of my remit to design things for them.

But I have done just that now; in fact, three times over the years. The Serpentine is a very beautiful space for artists to exhibit their work. I think it's invaluable, actually.

In many ways, Julia and I are quite formal and professional with each other, but I do consider her my friend. We also have lots of friends in common, and we often all have dinner together. She's a tough lady, and very good at what she does. I'm sorry to say this, as I wouldn't want the Serpentine to lose her, but I do think she should be running a very major institution, whether in this country or abroad.

The work she does at the Serpentine is wonderful. I remember first being approached to design [what became the Sackler Gallery] many years ago by somebody else, but that never happened. So when the offer came again, I was very interested. It's quite a small space, and the scale is modest, but it is an important message, I think, to show that you can achieve beauty through modesty.

The whole design and build took about two years. It's always a tense time, full of budgetary concerns, time schedules, and so on. And we are both very opinionated people, but we do respect each other's opinion. There is no point having an adviser if you are not going to listen to them; they are the experts. If I go to a doctor, I'm confident he will give me the correct advice. Well, the same was true here.

As architects, we rarely go in with carte blanche, but we do have a lot of privileges. At the same time, however, you always have to address the client – in this case, Julia – and what is exciting about this profession is that, despite all the constraints, it's also a lot of fun.

It's always nice to complete a project. I tend to like to go somewhere hot and relax for a few months immediately afterwards. I haven't gone away yet, but then we haven't opened to the public yet, and that's why Julia and I haven't celebrated. The moment of reckoning comes when the public arrives.

Over the past 20 years, we have collaborated together three times. I expect and hope we will work together again.

Julia Peyton-Jones OBE, 60

Formerly a curator at the Hayward Gallery, Peyton-Jones has been a co-director of the Serpentine Gallery in London since 1991. She lives in London

Back when I first joined the Serpentine Gallery, the art world was a very different place. There simply wasn't the appetite for culture the way there is now, and certainly not for modern art. People would look at it and say that a child of three could do it; they don't say that now.

Redeveloping the Sackler Gallery here has been a twinkle in my eye for 15 years. I felt it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create not only a beautiful exhibition space thanks to Zaha, but also a restaurant that will surely come to be seen as one of London's best.

I must have first met Zaha in about 1995 or 1996. The Serpentine was closed for renovation, and so we moved to a temporary bookshop in Warren Street. It was tiny, really tiny, but we asked whether Zaha, who had recently become one of our trustees, would consider redesigning it. She already had a global reputation, but I felt sure she could do wonders with the space.

Anyway, for one reason or another, that didn't happen, but a few years later, in 2000, she redesigned our Pavilion. I was thrilled. I think what is so good about Zaha is that not only is she a great architect, but she is a great artist. All her work comes from extraordinary Constructivist drawing. Drawing is at the very heart of what she does.

She is a brilliant woman, and she is always very clear about what she wants. She is also incredibly supportive. I remember when my father died, she rang not only to express her sadness, but also to ask whether there was anything she could do. I thought that was enormously touching. Her loyalty is notable. You can go to any opening of hers around the world, and you are quite likely to find friends that she has had for years. She is good at keeping close connections with people.

Zaha has always been generous, and we are lucky at the Serpentine to be on the receiving end of that generosity. The architects and artists who work with us are paid only a stipend based on the visual-arts economy, not the architect's economy. In other words, she wasn't paid as much as she usually is.

But then [the Sackler] was an unparalleled opportunity to design a structure in one of the most beautiful parks in the world, right in the centre of London yet set among nature in historic Kensington Gardens. It has a profile that would be almost impossible to have in any other position. I think that what she has achieved here is truly beautiful. It has such a wonderful lightness of touch.

Each of the projects she has designed for us to date are like little jewels, tiny diamonds, each helping to make a great crown.

The Serpentine Sackler Gallery, designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate Zaha Hadid, will open to the public on 28 September

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn