How Will You Define Your Legacy? / Remembering Zaha

This post has been adapted from the original entry from the member-exclusive Evolution Weekly on April 3, 2016. Sign up today and get entries like this sent directly to your inbox!

Evolving Architect // "How Will You Define Your Legacy? / Remembering Zaha"
“You can’t teach architecture. You can only inspire people.”
— Zaha Hadid

Hey, Friend.

As you may have heard by now, this past Thursday, Architect Zaha Hadid passed away due to a sudden and unexpected heart attack.

Many, both within and outside of our profession, knew of Zaha's breathtaking work. Her buildings remain as sinuous, seductive, and free-flowing forms that cause us to take pause as we grieve the loss of a visionary whose impact upon the profession of Architecture and upon the world will be felt for years to come.

I remember my days in college when I would think about how amazing and radical her projects truly were. Even then, I wondered at how such beautiful spaces and sculptural structures could be married in such harmony. Her work was unlike anything I had encountered before and was of such a purity that I have yet to experience since.

In my Thesis year, I began exploring precedents in search of answers I sought in my own work. Among the three I examined most thoroughly were The Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier, The Holocaust Museum by Daniel Libeskind, and The Rosenthal Museum of Contemporary Art by Zaha Hadid.

Zaha's work isn't just about pretty pictures or fancy materials. It's about creating balance through experimentation. Poetry in a frozen motion.

I think fondly to those times in studio when I would gaze upon her design for the Rosenthal and know that I was looking at something that completely defined what I wanted to spend the rest of my career in the pursuit of - a legacy through the built environment.

It may sound silly at times, but I became an Architect for a very specific reason. Not for fame. Not for glory. And not for riches.

I became an Architect to help change the way we live for the better. I know that Architecture can be that change and that, by dedicating myself to that purpose, I can make the world a better place one space at a time.

Zaha's passing prompted me to consider what we often take for granted.

What will your legacy be?

Will you be a leader?

Will you create lasting value among your friends and family?

Will you make someone's life worth living?

Maybe these are lofty goals. Maybe they're too vague.

All I know for sure is that the path we choose to take in life is our own. It's made by our passion, our perseverance, and our will.

Zaha undoubtedly had her own goals for her life. And whether she achieved them all, we'll never know for sure. But the simple truth is that her passion for her craft inspired a student of Architecture to dream that he could make a difference in this world.

You don't need 200 million dollar projects to make a difference either. We can each make an impact through architecture simply by caring enough to try.

Thanks for being awesome!


This week, I ask you to think on what you've done to this point in your career and in your life. Ask yourself this one, difficult and complex question. 'Are you making the choices now that will bring you to the person you want to be 10, 20, 30 years from now?'

If the answer is 'No,' you can change your course today. If the answer is 'Yes,' continue to develop and evolve. You can choose to take control of your life and sculpt it into whatever you wish it to be.

This post has been adapted from the original entry from the member-exclusive Evolution Weekly on April 3, 2016. Sign up today and get entries like this sent directly to your inbox!

Michael LaValley

Buffalo, NY