A Tribute to the Starchitect Zaha Hadid

Michael Wolfson

Zaha Hadid.

Zaha Hadid was very much with us all this past Monday as the memorial service celebrating her life was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, on a glorious sunny day. Filled with an international gathering of 2,500 friends, family and admirers, the place was full  with people from all walks of life—from Lords & Ladies to students, coming from the East End of London to the Far East of Vietnam… really,  from the four corners of the world we came to celebrate her life and begin the next phase of a world with Zaha not visible (or audible!) at center stage.

The effort that went into making the day memorable was clear. Zaha’s longtime associates Luisa Alves and Christian Gibbon, along with scores of others from the office and from the church, enabled  the service to proceed smoothly and seemingly effortlessly. A production Zaha would have very much approved.  And, really, beautifully moving.

It started with the procession thru the open Great West Door of the Cathedral (I mean, the enormous doors, with the sun shining thru!) , led by the Choir and Clergy, then The Reverend Canon Tricia Hillas, proceeded in with Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent. There followed a selection of readings given by the pastor, various family members, and the notables & nobles, with singing by the St Paul’s Cathedral Consort, the Soul Sanctuary Gospel Choir, and Ilham Al-Madfai, a noted Iraqi guitarist-composer-singer.

The readings, especially those of the family, were incredibly heartfelt and  really did bring all aspects of Zaha’s character right there to everyone listening.  Definitely a lot of teary eyes, but also smiles and laughter.

At the end of the service, the Great West Door was again opened, and another hour was spent talking to friends, reminiscing, and more talking…. which carried on for a number of us at a wonderful lunch about a 20 minute walk from the church, across the river Thames, past the Tate Modern… more sunshine, more laughing, eating and remembering.

So the curtain has now opened on Zaha, Act II, with an eternal time line. Her office is in very capable hands with Patrik Schumacher at the lead and directors in place who have been with the practice for many decades. And, there is a foundation with an educational remit that will soon begin its own life in promoting and furthering the legacy that is Zaha.