Mary McCartney/Courtesy RIBA

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has awarded its Gold Medal, the highest honor in its repertory, since 1848. This year, on Wednesday, at a black-tie ceremony in RIBA’s stately Art Deco building in London, Zaha Hadid, Hon. FAIA, officially received the award, the first woman in the institute’s history to win it in her own right.

In the context of England’s clubby association of architects, still very much a fraternity, awarding the Gold Medal to an Iraqi-born exponent of a radically unorthodox modernism—perhaps best known here for twice winning the Cardiff Opera House competition, only to be rejected twice under cloudy circumstances—was a very big deal.