I am a young man with a significant number of friends in their eighties and nineties, several decades older than me. As a result, I’ve experienced the loss of many friends who “didn’t quite make it” to 80, 90, or even 100 years old. To see a hero cut down just as all the tides of a great battle turned to her favor, a titanic Olympian felled just as she crossed the insurmountable halfway point of the greatest game of her life, that is unspeakably cruel. That is what happened today with the death of Zaha Hadid.
I’ve found myself failing to keep to my regular way while wandering down familiar streets, losing myself in the field of my usually focused mind and stopping all the activities of my day from time to time in order to allow copious tears to flow. In the past, when I have lost accomplished elders, mentors, and friends, I’ve been able to take comfort in pointing to their achievements.
Zaha had no lack of achievement. Her buildings are the jewels of the world. They crown our greatest cities from Abu Dhabi to New York. But I know that she had so much more within her. I am reminded of a deteriorating Maurice Ravel who, in the year of his death at the age of 62, sobbingly turned to Hélène Jourdan Morhange after a performance of his masterpiece, Daphnis et Chloé, and said:
“I still have so much music in my head. I have said nothing. I still have so much more to say.”
Zaha didn’t quite make it to 66. She fought for many of those years against every conceivable preconception. After a long life of vividly overcoming every obstacle in her way with a fierce, singular, unmatched conviction, she has changed the world of architecture. We will never see buildings and their very environments in the same way.
Today many of us will be thinking about the funny stories we retain from Zaha as well as the grand legacy. But it’s no solace.
World leaders, experts at painting a silver lining in hell, have been telling us that Zaha lives on in her buildings. What about all the buildings that she has designed but will never see fully realized with her own two eyes? What about all the Zaha Hadid buildings that the world will never see? If Goethe called architecture “frozen music,” I can only think about all the “music” that she had within her and that we will never experience.
Today is hollowness, sorrow, and loss. Today is all tears. Today I will allow myself to be empty and numb. I have learned that there are days when one should not look to find comfort, where one should not seek solace, where there is simply no silver lining. Today is one of those days.
Today is inconsolable.
by W.H. Auden
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.