December 15, 2015

Design Greats We’ve Lost in 2015

Celebrated talents that died this year include Irving Harper, who helped conceive the iconic Marshmallow sofa, and 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Frei Otto.

1. William Diamond

Designer William Diamond, co-founder of Diamond Baratta with Anthony Baratta, died on July 9 in Chicago at age 63. Diamond first had ambitions to be a painter, before dropping out of Carnegie Mellon University to pursue interior design. He is admired for his vibrantly-hued interiors, often strewn with an eclectic mix of historical antiques and contemporary one-offs.

2. Daniel Reid Fogelson

On October 17 at the age of 56, designer Daniel Reid Fogelson lost his battle with cancer at his home in Providence, Rhode Island. The Pratt Institute of Design graduate was a prominent name in the design community, working in design, sales, and marketing for firms including Knoll, Carnegie ICF Group, and Emeco. For Emeco, he collaborated with Coca-Cola to launch the first chair made of recycled PET plastic, the 11 Navy chair, an Interior Design Best of Year Award winner made of 111 coke bottles.

3. Moira Gemmill

Designer Moira Gemmill died aged 55 in a cycling accident in London on April 9. Gemmill is credited with spearheading the transformation of the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she served as head of design from 2002 to 2014. Gemmill also played a key role in the launch of the V&A Museum of Design Dundee, a new design museum planned for Dundee, Scotland. The V&A Dundee has launched a fund and increased its award prizes for its annual Illustration Awards in her name.

4. Robert Goldman

Robert Goldman, founder and CEO of textile manufacturer Carnegie Fabrics, died aged 90 on October 2. After starting Carnegie in 1950, Goldman revolutionized the textile industry with innovations including textile wallcoverings in 1971 and plant-based high-performance textile Xorel in 1981, a sustainable alternative to vinyl.

5. James Gowan

Architect and teacher James Gowan died June 15 aged 92. A long-time staff member at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, Gowan collaborated with architect James Stirling from 1956 to 1963.

6. Michael Graves

Designer and architect Michael Graves, founder of his namesake firm, died March 12 at age 80. A father of Postmodernism, Graves earned a Masters in Architecture from Harvard University, and, almost immediately after, took home the prestigious Rome Prize. He produced a wide-ranging body of work that includes the Portland Building in Oregon and the 9093 kettle, with a distinctive bird-shaped whistle, for manufacturer Alessi

7. Irving Harper

Irving Harper, designer of the iconic Marshmallow Sofa with fellow industrial designer George Nelson, died on August 4 at age 99. From 1947 to 1963, Harper worked as director of design for George Nelson Associates, the design house that helped define the 20th century Modernist movement with numerous industrial design successes for furniture manufacturer Herman Miller.

8. Jacob Jensen

Known for his sleek audio products for consumer electronics company Bang & Olufsen, Danish designer Jacob Jensen died on May 15 at aged 89. Jensen began working for Bang & Olufsen in 1964, transforming items including turntables, amplifiers, speakers, and tuners into minimalist and high-performance objects d’art.

9. Thomas S. Marvel

Thomas S. Marvel, the architect that made a resounding impact on the built landscape of the Caribbean, died November 3 in San Juan, Puerto Rico of prostate cancer at the age of 80. Marvel worked with celebrated architect upon graduating from Dartmouth University and earned his Masters in Architecture from Harvard University. Using local materials, Marvel built attractive buildings in tune to hot climates.

10. Frei Otto

German architect and engineer Frei Otto, recipient of the 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize, died March 9 at age 89. Otto is celebrated for his modern, lightweight, tent-like structures, employed for a wide range of uses including exhibition pavilions and temporary structures.

11. Christen Sorensen

Christen Sorensen, the Danish designer behind furniture manufacturer Keilhauer‘s Respons chair, died June 10 in Spain at the age of 93. The Centre Pompidou in Paris has a few of Sorensen’s chairs as part of its permanent collection.

12. Sara Little Turnbull

Designer Sara Little Turnbull died September 3 in Seattle at the age of 97. After serving as an editor for House Beautiful from 1942 to 1958, Turnbull worked as a design consultant for high-profile firms including 3M, Coca-Cola, DuPont, and even NASA.


13. Jonathan Woolf

Architect Jonathan Woolf, influenced by 20th century great Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and known for his Modernist private homes, died September 5 in London of cancer. Despite a short career—which began when he launched his namesake firm in the 1990’s—Woolf made his mark with residences in both London and Nairobi.

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