Born in Baghdad, Iraq, she received a degree in mathematics from the American University of Birut before moving to study at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. After graduating she became a partner at the Offic for Metropolitan Architecture, working with her former teacher, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. In 1979 she established her own London-based practice. During the 1980s she also taught at the Architectural Association.
Much of Hadid's work has been conceptual, but realized projects include:
- Vitra Fire Station (1993), Weil am Rheim, Germany
- Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art (1998), Cincinnati, Ohio
- Hoenheim-North Terminus & Car Park (2001), Strasbourg, France
- Bergisel Ski Jump (2002), Innsbruck, Austria
- Ordrupgaard annexe (2005), Copenhagen, Denmark
- Phaeno Science Center (2005), Wolfsburg, Germany
- BWM Centre (2005), Leipzig, Germany
She has also undertaken some high-profile interior work, including the Mind Zone at the Milennium Dome in London. A winner of many international competitions, a number of her winning designs were never built: notably, The Peak Club in Hong Kong (1983) and the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994). In 2002 she won the international design competition to design Singapore's one-north masterplan. In 2005, her design won the competition for the new city casino of Basel Sqitzerland.
In 2004 Hadid became the first female recipient of the Pritzker ARchitecture Prize. Previously, she had been awarded a CBE for services to architecture.