The architect behind the dazzling Aquatic Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Zaha Hadid, has been award the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, an accolade personally approved by the Queen.

Hadid said she was “very proud” to have become the first woman in her own right to win the award, presented by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to a person or group who significantly influences “the advancement of architecture”.

She said: “I am very proud to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal, in particular to be the first woman to receive the honour in her own right.

“We now see more established female architects all the time. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes the challenges are immense. There has been tremendous change over recent years and we will continue this progress.

“This recognition is an honour for me and my practice, but equally, for all our clients.”

As well as the swooping Aquatics Centre, she is known for the Cardiff Bay Opera House and, around the world, the Guangzhou Opera House in China and the Vitra Fire Station in Germany.

RIBA president Jane Duncan said: “Zaha Hadid is a formidable and globally influential force in architecture. Highly experimental, rigorous and exacting, her work from buildings to furniture, footwear and cars is quite rightly revered and desired by brands and people all around the world. I am delighted Zaha will be awarded the Royal Gold Medal in 2016 and can’t wait to see what she and her practice will do next.”

Baghdad-born Hadid opened her own practice, Zaha Hadid Architects, in London in 1979. In 2004, she became the first female recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of architecture. She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire for achievements in architecture.