December 19, 2018

The Designers We Lost in 2018

We bid farewell to the design greats who passed away this year.

Robert Venturithe acclaimed architect, theorist, Pritzker Prize winner, and Hall of Fame inductee, passed away at the age of 93. Venturi left an indelible mark on the field of architecture with the seminal books Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Learning from Las Vegas (co-authored by his esteemed wife Denise Scott Brown), which helped usher in the Postmodernist movement. Together they founded Venturi Scott Brown Associates (now known as VSBA), which further refined and popularized the Postmodern style.

Renowned interior designer and Hall of Fame inductee Mario Buatta, also known by his nickname “the Prince of Chintz,” passed away at the age of 82. Buatta’s work was unmistakable and incomparable. What he called the “undecorated look” reflected his love of antique furnishings and obsession with the vintage stylings of English country homes. What inspired him about these places was the hodgepodge of styles elegantly commingling in one room, creating a tasteful and cohesive whole out of disparate elements that a less capable designer would bypass, or even worse, attempt to force together. He accented this style with bold colors and luxurious textiles, especially chintz, adding a distinctly American twist to his Anglo-inspired look. 

Arthur Edelman, co-founder of Edelman Leather with his wife, Teddy, passed away on January 30. He was 92. The Edelmans launched their business in 1981 with the goal of providing luxury upholstery to architects and interior designers for high-end residential, office, hospitality, aviation, and marine projects. Although the couple sold the brand to Knoll in 2007, Arthur continued designing patterns—and the imaginative stories accompanying them—until 2009. Today, the line includes more than 800 colorways and over 80 types of leather, all sustainably sourced. 

Visionary sculptor and furniture designer Wendell Castle, the prolific “father of the art furniture” movement, passed away at age 85. Blurring the lines between aesthetic and function, Castle created whimsically sinuous forms from wood, plastic, and metal. He pioneered a process called stacked lamination, which granted him the freedom to create biomorphic pieces from solid materials. Castle was a member of the College at Brockport faculty and a permanent artist-in-residence at Rochester Institute of Technology until his death.

Jon C. Jackson, FAIA, retired principal of Bohlin Cywinski Jackson (BCJ), passed away on August 17. He was 67. Jackson intentionally envisaged his buildings as humane workplaces, shaped by his concern for individual and social well being. He valued the exploration and invention that occurred within these spaces, and often commented that his role—improving humanity through thoughtful design—inspired him far more than awards or accolades. The concern for human nature, embodied in many of his projects, has become one of the pillars of today’s creative workplace movement.

American-born British architect Neave Brown passed away on January 9. He was
88 years old. His modernist public housing projects, which include Winscombe Street, Fleet Road, and Alexandra Road, were not only technically masterful, but reflected a genuine compassion for the people who would occupy them. His humanistic approach to public architecture earned him RIBA’s royal gold medal. He is the only architect to have all his UK work listed.

An Erwin Hauer screen, formed from a weather-resistant composite of cement and crushed marble, clads a São Paulo residence by Studio MK27. Photography by Nelson Kon.

Austrian-American sculptor and Interior Design Hall of Fame member Erwin Hauer passed away on December 22, 2017. He was 91. Hauer’s sculptural architectural screens merged modularity with a mathematical expressiveness. Hauer’s screens flourished in America’s postwar heyday, where they became emblematic of modernism. Interior Design editor in chief Cindy Allen inducted him into the magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2008, describing him as “an icon, and the most lovely and gentle man.”

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