The Designers We Lost in 2017

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

NewBalance headquarters in Boston, MA, by Elkus Manfredi Architects. Photography by Robert Benson.

Howard Elkus, co-founding principal of Boston firm Elkus Manfredi Architects, passed away on April 1. His five-decade architecture career started when he joined The Architects Collaborative, the firm Walter Gropius founded. After the practice ceased operation in 1995, Elkus founded Elkus Manfredi Architects with partner David Manfredi. Their namesake firm is celebrated for numerous contributions to the urban fabric of Boston and is currently designing the retail podium at 10 Hudson Yards in New York. Read the full obituary.

Prolific New York architect and Interior Design Hall of Fame member Hugh Hardy passed away on March 17. Hardy founded three architecture firms throughout his 50-year career and spearheaded a multitude of projects that reshaped New York’s cultural landscape. One of his first, the restoration of the Eero Saarinen–designed Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center, foreshadowed his dramatic restorations of the New Victory and New Amsterdam theaters along 42nd street, which facilitated Theater Row’s resurgence as a premier cultural destination. Read the full obituary.

Diana Vreeland's Park Avenue sitting room (2000) by Jeremiah Goodman. Image courtesy of the artist.

Renowned artist Jeremiah Goodman, the cover illustrator for Interior Design for 15 years, passed away on September 7. After working for Lord & Taylor in 1952, Goodman earned placements in a number of high-profile publications. He then started painting interior portraits for world-famous clientele like Pablo Picasso, Ronald Reagan, and Diana Vreeland. The American Museum in Britain recently showcased the first international retrospective of his work, which can be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. Read the full obituary.

Fred Koetter, founding principal of Boston firm Koetter Kim & Associates, passed away on August 21. Koetter served as the Dean of the Yale School of Architecture (1993-1998) and worked on projects such as Miller Park Plaza in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the Firestone Library at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey.

Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts passed away on August 15. The Detroit resident worked with Eero Saarinen and in the offices of Perkins + Will before launching his own practice in 1963, which completed projects like the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, the Latvian National Library in Riga, Latvia, and Marquette Plaza in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

New York interior designer and curator Jim Walrod (pictured) passed away on September 25. Walrod designed interiors for the Thompson LES Hotel in NYC and amassed a star-studded list of clients, which included David Bowie and the Beastie Boys. He also curated for Patrick Parrish and R & Company and contributed to ApartamentoRead our 2015 interview with Walrod.

Max De Pree, former CEO of Herman Miller, died on August 8. The furniture giant’s leader from 1980 to 1987, De Pree nearly tripled the company’s sales during his tenure and established Herman Miller as a premier employer in the country due to his advocacy for employee programs. He went on to publish two best-selling books on leadership.

Czech architect Robert Kliment, who founded New York firm Kliment Halsband Architects in 1972, passed away on June 3. With a humanist design approach that won him the AIANY’s Honor Award, Kliment worked on a multitude of higher education buildings in the Northeast and served as a faculty member at Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania.

Structural engineer Peter Petkoff passed away on January 9. A longtime contributor to Smith Hinchman & Grylls (now SmithgroupJJR), Petkoff contributed to major projects such as Eero Saarinen & Associates’ General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, and Detroit's One Woodward Avenue, at one time the world’s tallest all-welded steel frame structure.

Argentinian architects and engineers Hernán Ferruchi, Hernán Mendoza, Diego Angelini, Ariel Erlij, and Alejandro Damián Pagnucco were killed in the New York City truck attack on October 31. The five were celebrating the 30th anniversary of their graduation from the General San Martin Polytechnic Institute in Rosario, Argentina.

Albert Speer Jr., the son of Adolf Hitler’s chief architect Albert Speer Sr., died on September 15. A champion of human-scale buildings and sustainable planning, Speer Jr. and his eponymous firm attempted for decades to separate his career from his father’s legacy and received numerous international large-scale commissions.

Modernist architect William Krisel passed away on June 5. Krisel’s firm Palmer & Krisel designed thousands of tract homes throughout Southern California in the 1950's, nearly doubling the size of Palm Springs with open-plan homes that facilitated indoor-outdoor living.

Drucilla “Drue” Gensler (pictured), who co-founded Gensler with her husband M. Arthur “Art” Gensler Jr. in 1965, died on July 20. A longtime member of the firm’s board of directors, Drue managed Gensler’s business aspects while raising their four sons. 

David Marks, co-founder of Marks Barfield Architects and protege to Richard Rogers, passed away on October 6. With his wife and partner Julia Barfield, Marks designed and developed the London Eye and the Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens in the UK.

Martin Roth, former director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, died on August 6. During his five-year leadership, Roth strengthened the V&A’s international profile by participating in the Venice Biennale, founding the V&A Research Institute, and establishing outposts in Dundee, Scotland, and Shekou, China.

Kimberly Ward, founder of the Black Interior Designers Network, died on August 1. She established the Top 20 African American Interior Designers list on design blog Pink Eggshell and founded the 120-member BIDN to connect homeowners to designers of color. 

Michigan architect Irving Tobocman passed away after a November 10 car accident. Tobocman’s Bauhaus-inspired portfolio comprises over 400 residential and commercial buildings in the United States, Canada, and India, among other countries. 

Beverley David Thorne, the last living Case Study House contributor, died on December 6. After working for Roger Lee in the 1950’s, Thorne designed the program’s Harrison house in San Rafael, California, along with a renowned tree house–like structure for jazz musician David Brubeck.

Preeminent logo designer Ivan Chermayeff died on December 2. Throughout his career, Chermayeff conceived graphics and branding for several multinational corporations including the Smithsonian,  NYU, Barneys New York, and PBS. 

Vincent Scully, influential architectural scholar and historian, passed away on November 30. A lecturer at Yale, Scully counted Maya Lin, Robert A.M. Stern, and Paul Goldberger among his students, and Philip Johnson called him “the most influential architectural teacher” in recent memory.

Albert Ledner, who designed several modernist homes in New Orleans, died on November 14. Ledner’s unorthodox style, which bordered on futuristic, can be seen in Lower Manhattan, where he designed the eccentric National Maritime Union of America building, the Dream Hotel, and the Maritime Hotel. 

Los Angeles architect MacDonald Becket died on December 7. The president, chairman, and CEO of Wilton Becket and Associates is credited with helping master-plan Century City, Los Angeles, and designing Chase Bank Tower, the tallest building in Phoenix.

Influential Chicago architect Ed Uhlir passed away on November 22. Uhlir, who began his career by restoring old houses after graduating in 1969, project-directed Millennium Park, the Windy City’s top tourist attraction, and supervised the expansion of Lincoln Park Zoo and the South Shore Country Club. 

Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz passed away on April 20. Widely regarded as one of Poland’s most internationally acclaimed artists, Abakanowicz is noted for her innovative use of textiles as a sculptural medium to portray the corporal consequences of violence. Later in life, she created large-scale outdoor works for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s rooftop and Chicago’s Grant Park, among other public spaces.

Vito Acconci, a pioneer of performance art and landscape architecture, died on April 27. Acconci carved a niche with discomfiting performances that upended notions of the human body, but shifted his career toward site-specific installations and architecture with the 1988 founding of Acconci Studio. Four years later, he collaborated with Steven Holl on a transformable facade for the Storefront for Art and Architecture, one of his most famous commissions.

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