Dezeen Magazine

Terence Conran portrait

Remembering the great architects and designers we lost in 2020

To round off our review of 2020, Dezeen looks back at the designers and architects who passed away this year, including Italian designer Enzo Mari, British entrepreneur Terence Conran and Bulgarian artist Christo.

A number of the people we lost in 2020 were victims of coronavirus. They include fashion brand Kenzo's founder Kenzo Takada, architect and critic Michael Sorkin, Arper founder Luigi Feltrin and Swiss architect Luigi Snozzi.

The year also saw the passing of Manlio Armellini, one of the founding fathers of the Salone del Mobile, Hidden Art founder Dieneke Ferguson, French interior designer Christian Liaigre and Enrico Astori, co-founder of Italian design brand Driade.

Other creatives who passed away this year include Bill Menking, co-founder of The Architect's Newspaper, Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti, architect Adolfo Natalini and philosopher and architecture writer Roger Scruton.

In December, we also lost graphic designer Martin Lambie-Nairn, fashion designer Pierre Cardin and textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen.

Terence Conran portraitv

Terence Conran

Iconic British furniture designer Terence Conran, the founder of furniture brand Habitat and London's Design Museum, passed away in September at the age of 88.

Conran was born in 1931 in Kingston upon Thames, UK. He founded Habitat in the 1960s, introducing a number of novel European designs such as flatpack furniture to the UK, and went on to found The Conran Shop in 1973. In 1983, Conran was knighted.

The designer, who established London's Design Museum in 1989 in a former banana warehouse at Butler's Wharf, is remembered as one of the most influential designers of his generation.

"No one has done more to create modern Britain than Terence Conran," said former Design Museum director Deyan Sudjic.

Find out more about Terence Conran ›

Christo portrait


Bulgarian artist Christo was best known for wrapping buildings, including the Pont Neuf in Paris and Berlin's Reichstag, in fabric. He began creating the large-scale installations in the 1960s together with his late wife Jeanne-Claude.

She passed away in 2009 but Christo continued to work on the installations including his first major UK sculpture, the London Mastaba on the Serpentine Lake. Christo, who was born in 1935 in Bulgaria and escaped the then communist country to the west in 1957, died of natural causes at the age of 84.

Find out more about Christo ›

Enzo Mari dies

Enzo Mari

October saw the passing of Enzo Mari. The "giant" of Italian design died at age 88 from complications relating to coronavirus, followed by his wife Lea Vergine just a few hours later.

Mari, who was born in 1932, had a prolific career of 60 years that saw him design products for brands including Artemide, Alessi and Danese. Among them were the Delfina chair, which was designed for Driade in 1974 and won the Italian Compasso d'Oro industrial design award in 1979.

As well as working as a designer, Mari was an author and published the Autoprogettazione, a guide to making your own furniture from boards and nails, in the 1970s.

Find out more about Enzo Mari ›

I heart New York logo by Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser, the designer of the "I ♥ New York" logo, passed away in June in New York on his 91st birthday. He created the logo, which was designed to create a positive emblem for the then crime-ridden metropolis, in 1977.

Glaser's six-decade career also saw him design posters for Bob Dylan, design logos for DC Comics and co-found the New York Magazine. The life-long New Yorker was born in 1929 in the Bronx and studied at The Cooper Union in New York. In 1954 he co-founded Push Pin, an influential graphics studio, before striking out on his own with Milton Glaser Inc. in 1974.

His recent work includes contributing to the Get Out the Vote initiative ahead of the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Find out more about Milton Glaser ›

"Formidable architect and designer" Cini Boeri dies aged 93

Cini Boeri

Italian architect and designer Cini Boeri, the founder of Cini Boeri Architetti and one of the first post-war female Italian designers to rise to prominence, died in Milan at the age of 96.

She was known for her iconic seating designs and modular furniture, much of which is still in production. Among her work is Strips, a modular seating system for which Boeri won the Compasso d'Oro industrial design award.

Boeri also worked as an architect and completed residential projects as well as offices, shops and exhibition designs. She is survived by her three sons, one of whom is architect Stefano Boeri.

Find out more about Cini Boeri ›

French-Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada, who died of coronavirus

Kenzo Takada

Kenzo Takada, the Japanese designer who founded fashion brand Kenzo, was one of the creatives taken by coronavirus this year. The designer, who was based in Paris, died from the virus at the age of 81.

His Kenzo brand, founded in 1970 and originally called "Jungle Jap," was a success from the beginning. Rebranded as Kenzo, it opened its flagship Paris store in 1976 and would become influential due to its use of bright colours and Japanese prints and textiles.

One of the defining fashion designers of the 1970s and 80s, Kenzo retired from fashion in 1999 but continued to design costumes for the opera.

Find out more about Kenzo Takada ›

Michael Sorkin portrait

Michael Sorkin

The death of New York-based architect and critic Michael Sorkin shocked the architecture world in March when he passed away at the age of 71 from coronavirus complications.

Sorkin, who was head of his eponymous architecture firm and president of non-profit research group Terreform, was the architecture critic for New York news and culture paper The Village Voice for 10 years.

He was also the director of the graduate programme in urban design at City College of New York (CCNY) and had taught at institutions including London's Architectural Association and the Cooper Union and Harvard University in the US.

"The architecture world has lost a brilliant mind," said Harriet Harriss, dean of New York's Pratt Institute School of Architecture.

Find out more about Michael Sorkin ›

"Grandmaster of the white interior" Jan des Bouvrie dies aged 78

Jan des Bouvrie

Known as the "Grandmaster of the white interior" in his native country, Dutch designer Jan des Bouvrie introduced the white, minimalist interior to the Netherlands.

The designer, who celebrated 50 years in the design industry in 2019, was also known for creating the Cube sofa. As well as furniture, Des Bouvrie designed a number of residences in the Gooi area of Holland. He also worked on collaborations with Dutch mass-market brands such as hardware store Gamma and electronics company Philips.

Des Bouvrie was born in 1942 and died at the age of 78 after a long battle with prostate cancer.

Find out more about Jan des Bouvrie ›

Kansai Yamamoto obituary

Kansai Yamamoto

Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, who was best known for his dramatic costume designs for David Bowie, died at the age of 76 from acute myeloid leukaemia. Yamamoto's career started in 1971 when the designer founded his studio Yamamoto Kansai Company.

Bowie saw his first collection and became a client, showcasing Yamamoto's exuberant designs on stage. In 1992, Yamamoto showed his final collection, but he stayed in the creative industries by becoming an events producer and, later, designing costumes for Elton John and Lady Gaga.

Find out more about Kansai Yamamoto ›

Henry Cobb

Henry Cobb

Pei Cobb Freed & Partners co-founder Henry Cobb passed away in 2020 at the age of 93. Cobb, who was called "one of the great architects of our time" by critic Paul Goldberger, was the architect of Boston's John Hancock Tower.

Other key projects during his career, which spanned almost 70 years, include the Charles Shipman Payson Building at Maine's Portland Museum of Art in 1983 and the Palazzo Lombardia in Milan, which was completed in 2013. At the time of Cobb's death, work was underway at a number of his projects, including the International African American Museum Charleston in South Carolina.

Cobb was born in Boston in 1926 and founded IM Pei together with Chinese-American architect Pei, whom he'd met at Harvard University, and American architect Eason H Leonard in 1955. The firm was renamed Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1989.

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Blade Runner designer Syd Mead dies aged 86

Syd Mead

Industrial designer and concept artist Syd Mead was perhaps best known for his visual concept designs for Blade Runner, the 1982 sci-fi film. The American artist was born in 1933 and started his career in vehicle design for Ford Motor Company.

In the 1970s he started working on feature films and created the design for a number of sci-fi movies, including Tron, Johnny Mnemonic and Aliens.

He passed away at the age of 86 in his home in California due to complications from lymphoma cancer. Among those paying tribute to his work were Tesla's Elon Musk, whose Cybertruck is said to have been inspired by Blade Runner.

"Rest in peace Syd Mead. Your art will endure," Musk tweeted.

Find out more about Syd Mead ›