Zaha Hadid is hoping to start winning high-rise commercial projects in London to mitigate against the collapse of work in Libya and Egypt.
The practice announced at the end of March that a quarter of its 350 staff were facing redundancy after being hit hard by the combination of economic downturn and political unrest in the Middle East and north Africa.
Partner Patrik Schumacher said: “We have built up so much expertise in teams working on tall buildings all over the world – in Dubai, Egypt, Spain, Italy, France. There is a huge capacity of staff; we need an outlet for them and I think the UK is ready for this.
“We have these high-value, precious sites in London and this is where we can demonstrate the power of our style. In London the sites are so complex, you can’t get away too easily with a bland, simplistic design. We want to move away from bland curtain walls and work with the skeleton to give character to our buildings.”
Hadid, best known for designing public buildings, said she disagreed with Make chief Ken Shuttleworth who recently predicted the demise of the tall building in the national press.
“No. We haven’t even seen the start,” she said. “There needs to be a strategic decision because there is so much pressure to have high density in London and if you don’t build tall, then buildings are very low and dense on the ground and you have no open space and less air. Personally I think it’s better to grow tall but there needs to be a masterplan so it works with the skyline.
“There are lots of areas of London that need attention. Southwark is still not properly developed and it should be. That area, I think, has so much potential. Even London Docklands. That could be a fabulous place to live.”
But she admitted her fearsome reputation could cause problems and that she has to shout to get men to listen.
“I give them hell,” she joked. “I think developers in London are scared of me. But why? They should be able to deal with it.”