2017 may have had its peaks and valleys (to be honest, more than its fair share of valleys), but all felt the loss of revered figures throughout the design world this year. Below we pause to remember these notable people and their contributions to design, criticism and pedagogy. (See the rest of our Year in Review 2017 articles here)
Born November 8, 1919, James Ackerman was a prolific architectural historian and scholar of the Italian Renaissance. In 1969, Ackerman became a Slade Professor at Cambridge University; The Slade Professorship of Fine Art is the oldest professorship of art at the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and London. Ackerman passed away December 31, 2016, at the age of 97.
Architecture writer, historian and longtime author of the New York Times Streetscape column Christopher Gray passed away at age 66 in March. Gray was a voluminous writer, having published over 1,450 columns between 1987 and 2014. His wry humor and sly observations, coupled with a habit to pick up on stories that others might overlook, all contributed to a wide readership.
A fixture of the New York City landscape, architect Hugh Hardy’s impact was felt by nearly every major theater in the city. Born July 26, 1932, Hardy worked on projects ranging from Radio City Music Hall to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as well as the Windows on the World restaurant inside of the World Trade Center. Theaters nationwide dimmed their lights after Hardy’s death on March 15th.
Conceptual artist and architect Vito Acconci passed away earlier this year at the age of 77. The Bronx-born, Brooklyn-raised artist is most well known in the architectural world for designing the Storefront for Art and Architecture in Manhattan with Steven Holl, as well as teaching architecture at Pratt. Acconci leaves behind decades of breakthrough performance art, and Acconci Studio in Brooklyn.
Diane Lewis, the first woman architect appointed to the Cooper Union’s full-time faculty, died on May 2nd at age 66. Lewis, winner of the 1976 Rome Architecture Prize in Architecture and the 2008 Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, also served on many faculties around the world and was an integral part of New York’s contemporary design scene.
A cofounder of the award-winning Kliment Halsband Architects with his wife Frances, Robert Kliment passed away June 3rd of this year at the age of 84. Kliment was also a faculty member at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania. Known for work that was both thoughtful and humanistic, Kliment was the principal designer on several well-known institutional and educational buildings.
Hillary Ballon, a professor of Urban Studies and Architecture at NYU, passed away on June 16 of this year at age 61. Ballon was a prolific author and curator, having written several recognized books on how urban planning relates to social, political, and economic forces.
Committed urbanist, journalist, and former senior editor for The Architect’s Newspaper (AN), Branden Klayko passed away in June at age 33. An instrumental part of AN’s founding, Klayko used his writing to advocate for sensible urban solutions that took the whole streetscape, and the public’s interaction with it, into account.
Norwegian architect Peter Pran passed away at age 81 on July 5th of this year. Known for bringing modernist ideas to larger corporate firms, Pran was an extremely productive designer with projects realized on nearly every continent. He had previously held positions at Ellerbe Becket, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), and NBBJ, and was a co-founder and partner of Peter Pran + H Architects in New York City.
Latvian-American architect Gunnar Birkerts passed away at the age of 92 on August 15th, just as the place of his 40-year career in the architectural canon was being reevaluated. An ardent modernist and individualist, Birkerts’ usage of experimental materials and attention to space planning were well-served in Detroit, where he could work without compromising on his unique style.
Avowed urbanist, teacher, critic and former Dean of the Yale School of Architecture Fred Koetter passed away at the age of 79 on August 21. During his tenure as Dean, Koetter established the school’s Rome summer program and Yale Urban Design Workshop, and continued to win acclaim for projects realized through his professional firm of Koetter Kim & Associates, co-founded with Susie Kim.
Albert Speer, Jr.
Prominent German architect Albert Speer, Jr., who spent much of his life trying to get out of the shadow of his Nazi father, Speer, Sr., passed away one September 15th at the age of 83. A renowned urban planner whose progressive approach focused on human-scale projects, Speer’s firm, Albert Speer + Partner, made successful bids in recent years for larger projects such as the 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup.
David Marks, whose Millennium Wheel has made a lasting impact on London’s skyline, passed away at the age of 64 on October 5th. The Swedish designer was a graduate of the Architectural Association School (AA) and known particularly for his fondness of elevated views. He designed and built several elevated viewing platforms in England, as well as having recently proposed a gondola system for Chicago.
Albert C. Ledner
Modernist Albert C. Ledner, whose nautical-themed designs changed both New Orleans and New York, died on November 14th at the age of 93. Despite spending much of his career outside of the mainstream, his work won recognition in recent years owing to its playful, sometimes seemingly esoteric qualities.
Distinguished architectural historian Vincent Scully, a Yale professor for over six decades, passed away on November 30th at the age of 97. Scully was a champion of American architecture and design, and his teaching and written works affected generations of architects and critics. Other than teaching, Scully was a productive author with 20 books to his name, focusing on everything from Greek sacred architecture to Frank Lloyd Wright.
Founding titan of modern graphic design Ivan Chermayeff passed away at age 85 on December 3rd. The long-lasting legacy of his award-winning firm, Chermayeff & Geismar, can be felt in the dozens of logos they designed, from NBC’s peacock, to the National Geographic and PBS logos. Besides for-profit projects, Chermayeff was also involved with creating the identities of non-profits ranging from the MoMa to the Library of Congress.