April 7, 2016 6:19 AM EDT

I met Zaha Hadid when she was just starting out. She was always one of the guys, undaunted by all the challenges women face in the architecture field, and very confident.

I was part of a group that helped Zaha get one of her first commissions, the Vitra Fire Station in Germany. She did an extraordinary job with it–everybody was impressed, and she took off. She created a language that’s unique to her. I suppose it will be copied, but never the way she did it. The kind of architecture Zaha did was not sought after a lot, and then she made it sought after. She created the niche.

The last building of Zaha’s that really knocked my socks off was her Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympics, which we attended together. We sat together and took it all in, form and function. I told her it was so beautiful and fit so nicely, and I thought it was right on the money, perfect.

She just smiled a knowing smile.

Gehry is an acclaimed contemporary architect

This appears in the April 18, 2016 issue of TIME.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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