Water polo center Kristin Hoogenboom may not have much in common with a middle-aged woman. But Zaha Hadid – a 56 year-old Iraqi woman – is who Hoogenboom admires most.

Jess Cox
Kristen Hoogenboom excels in the pool . and in the studio. (DAVID TUMAN/Daily)

Hadid is not a starter for the United States women’s water polo team or a championship coach working the motivational speaker circuit.

Rather, Hadid is a world-renowned avant-garde architect, famous for works, including the Cincinnati Contemporary Art Museum. And, according to Hoogenboom, Hadid’s personality demands just as much attention as her buildings.

“(Hadid) is the most famous female architect in the world,” Hoogenboom said. “Because of her talent, she commands the respect of her peers. I’ve see pictures of her, and she’s intimidating just from the picture. I can only image how intimating she is in person.”

In fact, Hoogenboom’s connection to Hadid isn’t all that distant. Hoogie, as she’s known to teammates, is in her final year at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, majoring in architecture. She plans to pursue a career in architecture upon graduation. In the fall she will work with firms in her native Portland, Ore., on large-scale projects such as hospitals and schools. Eventually, she hopes the experience will lead her to graduate school and a career in either commercial or residential architecture.

Architecture students routinely spend 40 hours a week in the studio. During her junior year, the aspiring architect made her roommate, senior Carly Strub, wonder where she disappeared to every night.

“At first last year, I never knew where she was,” Strub said. “She certainly was never home. I honestly don’t know how she does it. She comes (to the pool) after a full day of class and puts in a solid four, four-and-a-half hours of practice and then goes immediately back up to North Campus and stays there until three in the morning.”

On North Campus, Hoogenboom sweats over sketches of everything from high-rises to doghouses. It’s this focus on both big and small projects that correlates most obviously to her water polo career.

Deconstructivism, the architecture school Hadid subscribes to, requires designers to approach the final product as bits and pieces. Often her designs will look abstract or confusing to the viewers but from the inside, they function just as any other building would, with bathrooms, offices and lobbies.

Hoogenboom find inspiration in Hadid’s architecture. The architect’s attention to detail easily translates to Hoogenboom’s playing style in the water. Both choose to focus on the small elements in order to create a bigger picture.

For Hoogenboom, the final product was not just her midterm assignment, but also a water polo team that was chock full of inexperienced freshmen. At the beginning of this season, Michigan found itself with a completely new squad.

“The beginning of this year, we had to go back to square one,” Strub said. “We had to teach the freshmen all of our defenses and offenses from scratch.”

From drawing lines in the classroom to constructing offenses in the pool, the two disciplines that Hoogenboom practices leave her little time to enjoy life outside of school and athletics.

“She’s more important than she’s been wanting to expect,” Michigan coach Matt Anderson said. “At the beginning of the year, she lost her starting job because I told her she wasn’t playing at a level I expected her to play.”

After the first couple of games, Hoogenboom began to question her commitment to her sport and wondered if she could handle juggling her hectic schedule for another year.

She realized she had drawn herself too thin. She needed to focus on finishing out her final season strong.

“Once the season started, I knew I couldn’t spend as much time on my work,” Hoogenboom said. “But I also knew that I couldn’t abandon my classes. I was really just taking my work with me to practice.”

Hoogenboom took what Anderson said to heart and found the time to commit herself to both causes. She realized she could only worry about architecture in the studio and not in the pool.

So, Hoogenboom erased the thin line she’d drawn and replaced it with a bolder, more defined column – one that served as a support for the rest of the team. Hoogenboom took the opportunity to be a leader.

Since then, Hoogenboom has tallied 18 goals on the season, including two hat tricks during the Brown Mini Tournament on April 8-9 in Providence, R.I.

“She is a major force on our team,” Strub said.

Hoogenboom seems to have finally found in herself what she sees in the pictures of Zaha Hadid. She has taken chance to step up and be a leader.

A leader that will terrify other teams.

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