Architects have rallied to support Zaha Hadid after a stormy interview in which she was quizzed about the rights of workers in Qatar and the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
Hadid was talking to journalist Sarah Monatague about her award of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal before the controversy started.
RIBA said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the tone of the interview – which ended when the architect hung up her telephone.
When asked by BBC Radio 4’s Montague about costs of the Japanese project and Hadid walking away from the scheme, the architect replied: “I pulled out because we did not have a contractor to go with. This is a very serious story and it should be reported accurately. It is a scandal
“We won this competition almost three years ago. It was an international competition entered by many Japanese architects and we won it.”
Hadid was also questioned over deaths of construction workers on her al-Wakrah stadium in Qatar. Last year a report by the International Trade Union Confederation estimated there had been 1,200 deaths on building projects in the three years to 2014.
However the architect has always stated that none of those were on the site of her stadium and in September last year Hadid called for an alliance of architects to lobby for improved conditions for workers in Qatar.
She also donated the settlement cash from her lawsuit for defamation against the New York Review of Books over the same issue to an unnamed labour rights organisation.
Montague’s question was: “One of your buildings is the Qatar stadium where there have been considerable problems, not least the number of deaths.”
Hadid replied: “There have not been any problems actually, I have to put you right, there has not been a single problem at the Qatar stadium.”
Montague asked again about the reports of deaths, Hadid added: ‘There have been no deaths on our site whatsoever…You should check your information before you say anything.’
When Montague interrupted one of her answers, Hadid said: “Don’t ask me a question when you can’t let me finish it. Listen to me, let’s stop this conversation right now. I don’t want to carry on. Thank you very much.”
The questioning on the programme prompted an angry response from architects and other media people with many taking to twitter to express their outrage.
Cany Ash, tweeted: “Sickened by lack of interest or empathy from @BBCr4today in architecture; twisted hostile interview with Dame Zaha re RIBA Gold Medal.
The Ash Sakula founding partner then added: “Sarah Montague wasted an opportunity to celebrate some great work. Horribly disrespectful and simply bad journalism.”
Architect Julyan Wickham of Wickham van Eyck Architects has written to the BBC demanding the organisation apologises for the “deleterious, untruthful and impolite questions”.
A RIBA spokesperson added: “[We were] surprised and disappointed by the focus of the Radio 4 Today programme interview with Dame Zaha Hadid this morning.
“Of course the BBC has a right to explore controversial issues, but we are very saddened that the interview failed to give appropriate weight to today’s celebration – Dame Zaha being named as the recipient of one of the world’s most important honours.”
Hadid also received backing from the media – Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner tweeted: “Why is Zaha Hadid given a harder time than her starchitect rivals?”
Also tweeting, Guardian contributor Hicham Yezza, said: “Shocking interview with Zaha Hadid on #r4today, a woman wins a prestigious architecture prize and gets interrogated like she’s a shoplifter.”
Institute of Ideas director Claire Fox, tweeted: “I absolutely love Zaha Hadid but especially now that she’s stood her ground on @BBCr4today. She won Gold medal FGS. Don’t attack her with misinformation.”
The 64-year-old architect’s Royal Gold Medal was personally approved by Queen Elizabeth II, and recognises a person or group who significantly influences “the advancement of architecture”. Previous winners include Frank Gehry, Lord Norman Foster and Frank Lloyd Wright.