Last Wednesday, just as a thousand people left the prayer service for Zaha Hadid at London’s Grand Mosque, it started to rain—appropriately enough at a dramatic diagonal—and not long after, as her family and friends motored in a caravan of buses to a cemetery in Surrey, the clouds parted and a double rainbow appeared. There, after six of her friends and office colleagues lowered her casket, located between the graves of her father, Mohammed, and her brother, Fulath, it hailed, through the sunshine.
The inexplicable weather, four seasons in one afternoon, was Shakespearean, as in King Lear, somehow sympathizing with Zaha’s tragic and unexpected death at 65 in Miami on March 31--and somehow acknowledging the unusual person that everyone, even people who didn’t know her, called just Zaha.
The three days of honoring Zaha started last Wednesday at the London Central Mosque, where to the surprise of the many who had never attended a Muslim service, men and women were segregated, the women occupying a balcony overlooking the main congregation space, where men sat, meditated and prayed on a field of carpets under a celestial-blue dome and lavish crystal chandelier. Zaha’s white casket was wheeled in and placed in a corner of the sanctuary during the long period of silence that preceded the daily call to prayers. Congregants exited into the rain just as it started.
The huge, park-like Brookwood Cemetery in Woking, Surrey, landscaped with mature specimen trees, allocates sections to different groups (such as actors and fallen soldiers) and religious denominations: the three Hadids, Sunni Arabs, are buried in a Muslim section amid towering pines. An imam delivered a long prayer in sonorous, measured Classical Arabic. Her father’s and brother’s graves were blanketed in white roses, and after Zaha was lowered into her grave, everyone filed by and dropped a white rose onto her casket. Incongruously, trains passed by: one of the cemetery’s stops is just steps from the graves, making a pilgrimage to Zaha surprisingly convenient.
Patrik Schumacher, whom Zaha infallibly credited as lead principal in her office, organized a reception in the Zaha Hadid Design Gallery on Goswell Road after the burial, to celebrate her life. Guests, mostly colleagues who worked with Zaha, mingled among the chairs, tables, benches and sofas she had designed, dining on Mid Eastern specialties. Schumacher delivered an impromptu emotional speech, in which he described himself as a “total recluse” and thanked Zaha for all the friends in the room: her friends had become his. He will now lead the firm as it continues to work on some 60 projects currently on the boards.
On Thursday and Friday afternoon, her family received her friends and colleagues at The Magazine, a reception venue and restaurant of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, which Zaha designed in Hyde Park. Its billowing forms flaring the edges are supported by long, spoon-shaped columns, like the poles of a tent, which scoop light gently into the luminous, serene space. With Zaha looking on from many photos standing on easels, guests mingled for five hours each day, telling their Zaha tales with warmth and traces of her wicked humor. The American ambassador attended on Thursday. Friends came from as far away as China.
A memorial service will be held in London, its date and place to be announced.