December 30, 2019

Architects and Designers We Lost in 2019

They graced us with iconic buildings, exquisite interiors, and products that make life aesthetically enjoyable. In 2019, the architecture and design community lost these 11 luminaries (listed in chronological order of their passing), but their towering talent lives on in the legacy buildings, spaces, and products they created. 

Florence Knoll Bassett

American designer Florence Knoll Bassett passed away on January 25, 2019 in Coral Cables, Florida. She was 101. David E. Bright, spokesman for Knoll Inc., announced her passing. Knoll Bassett and her husband Hans Knoll ran the company for many years together, beginning in the 1940s. She had a large hand in the creative vision of Knoll, started the Knoll Planning Unit, and directed the design of the company’s iconic furniture, textiles, and graphics. Read more about her life 

Alessandro Mendini

Renowned Italian architect, designer, and journalist Alessandro Mendini died Monday at the age of 87. A key figure in the history of modern design, Mendini’s influence on the genre was profound. He was known for his prolific role in the radical design and postmodern design movements in the latter half of the 20th century. He was also key in re-inventing the image of Alessi, and founded Mode, his own design magazine. Read more about his life

Karl Lagerfeld

Design icon Karl Lagerfeld died Tuesday in Paris. Best known for shaping the luxury fashion industry through his tenure as creative director at Chanel (since 1983) and Fendi (since 1965), Lagerfeld made his first forays into product and hospitality design in recent years. The acclaimed fashion designer turned his eye for design toward products and interiors in 2013.  That year Lagerfeld collaborated with Italian manufacturer Cassina to curate special exhibition The Authentic Eye for the brand’s showroom in Paris. It was also in 2013 that Lagerfeld enlisted Berlin-based design firm Plajer & Franz Studio to conceptualize and design the first showroom for his eponymous fashion label. Read more about his life

Kevin Roche

American architect Kevin Roche passed away on March 1, 2019 at his home in Guilford, Connecticut. His firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, announced his passing. His career, which lasted over six decades, spanned more than 200 completed projects all over the world. Roche will be remembered for revitalizing corporate design and establishing cultural centers in the latter half of the 20th century. Read more about his life

I.M. Pei

I.M Pei, the internationally celebrated architect whose work spanned seven decades, died May 16 in New York. He was 102. Inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame in 2017, Pei was a modernist whose striking works included notable cultural institutions and civic buildings: the pyramid at the entrance to the Louvre in Paris (1989); the East Building of the National Gallery in Washington, DC (1978); the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong (1989); the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO (1966); the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland (1995); and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar (2008). Read more about his life

Cesar Pelli

Modernist architect César Pelli, whose buildings changed the skylines of cities from San Francisco to Kuala Lumpur, died on Friday. He was 92. Pelli was born and educated in Argentina, where he earned a Diploma in Architecture from the University of Tucumán, and later worked for several major architectural firms—including serving as Project Designer on Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal at JFK Airport in New York (recently re-opened as the TWA Hotel)—before founding César Pelli & Associates (now Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects), in New Haven, Connecticut in 1977. That same year he was named Dean of the Yale University School of Architecture, a position he held until 1984. Read more about his life 

Francesca Garcia Marques

The AIA Los Angeles is remembering Francesca Garcia-Marques, an invaluable longtime chapter member who passed away in early July 2019. For 30 years, Garcia-Marques, Hon. AIA|LA, Assoc. AIA, was the principal of Studio Francesca Garcia-Marques, a multidisciplinary design firm in Los Angeles, specializing in graphic design, interior design, and historic restoration. She was also well known as a curator of lecture series, conferences, and exhibitions with a focus on architecture, design and art. Read more about her life


Gerd Bulthaup

Gerd Bulthaup, who led the German kitchen company that bears his family name from 1979 to 2003, died August 1 in Munich. He was 75.  Colleagues recall Bulthaup as an optimistic and engaging manager, who collaborated with other leaders in the field—including Otl Aicher, the German graphic designer known for introducing the concept of corporate identity. Together, Aicher and Bulthaup pursued an intensive study of kitchen design by analyzing the methodologies of European chefs over the course of a year. This experience ultimately shaped Bulthaup’s design philosophy, now rooted in the Bauhaus idea that “form follows function.” Read more about his life

Isabel Toledo

Isabel Toledo, a Cuban-American designer known for her self-described “romantic mathematics” approach to dressmaking, died of breast cancer Monday in Manhattan. She was 59.  Toledo, a staunch believer in staying true to her craft rather than following the latest trends, is widely known for designing the lemongrass-hued shift dress and overcoat worn by Michelle Obama in the 2009 inaugural parade. She often layered precise geometric patterns to create ethereal, architectural looks. Read more about her life

Ruth Rodale Spira

Ruth Rodale Spira, co-founder and co-chairwoman of Lutron Electronics, passed away August 31 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She was 90 years old. Spira and her husband, Joel Spira—who died in 2015—started Lutron together in their Manhattan apartment in the late 1950s. At the time, the pair transformed their spare bedroom into a lab of sorts with the intention of developing the first dimmer light switch, which Joel Spira, a physicist by training, invented shorty thereafter. Ultimately, Ruth and Joel Spira settled in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, where they established Lutron Electronics and grew it from a local business into a global leader in lighting and shading with 15,000 products. In the company’s early days, Spira headed quality control. Read more about her life

William Lewis Hodgins

William Lewis Hodgins, who established his interior design firm in 1968 in Boston and earned a reputation as one of the country’s leading residential designers, died on September 24 at his home in Massachusetts. He was 86. Hodgins, a native of Canada, attended Western University in London, Ontario, and later Parsons School of Design in New York. Upon graduation, he went to work as an assistant to “Sister” Parish and Albert Hadley at Parish-Hadley Associates, before moving to Boston and founding William Hodgins Incorporated. Read more about his life

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