All posts in Obituary

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Obit> Michael Graves passes away at the age of 80
Famed postmodernist architect Michael Graves died of natural causes today at his Princeton, New Jersey home. The architect's passing was announced by the eponymous firm that he founded in 1964. Graves was 80 years old. "For those of us who had the opportunity to work closely with Michael, we knew him as an extraordinary designer, teacher, mentor and friend," said the firm in a statement. "For the countless students that he taught for more than 40 years, Michael was an inspiring professor who encouraged everyone to find their unique design voice. Of all of his accomplishments, Michael often said that, like his own family, his proudest creation was his firm.  As we go forward in our practice, we will continue to honor Michael’s humanistic design philosophy through our commitment to creating unique design solutions that transform people’s lives." Among his highest profile projects were the Portland Building in Oregon and the Humana Building in Louisville, Kentucky. Recently, he had devoted his practice to healthcare design and architecture for people with disabilities. He was also famous for bringing his industrial designs to mass production through his collaboration with Target and later J.C. Penney. Plans for a public memorial in Princeton to honor Graves will be announced soon.
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Obit> Jon Jerde, 1940–2015
Jon Jerde, founder and chairman of Venice, CA–based Jerde Partnership, died Monday after a longstanding illness. Jerde, whose firm has designed more than 100 urban places worldwide, was known for reinventing shopping centers as energetic entertainment destinations, bringing Hollywood pizazz and big city walkability to the once staid world of retail design. Some of his firm's most famous projects included LA's City Walk at Universal City, San Diego's Horton Plaza, Tokyo's Roppongi Hills, and Las Vegas's “Fremont Street Experience,” a four-block "outdoor lobby," for a once deserted stretch of that city. All replaced typical retail buildings with meandering urban and landscape conglomerations, merging public and private space in a typology that later fell under the emerging category of "placemaking." Jerde also created the look of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, a colorful, tactile example of the architect's passion for designing spaces for everyone, not a select elite. It worked: Jerde Places—still being created by his firm after his death—are now used by over one billion visitors each year, and have been followed by countless imitations. AN will publish a tribute to Jerde later in the month, and we will keep readers posted about an upcoming memorial service for the architect.
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Obit> Kenji Ekuan: 1929–2015
  Kenji Ekuan, 1929–2015, was the designer behind the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle (1961), the Narita Express (1991), and the Yamaha VMAX motorcycle (1985). The former monk drew inspiration from Hiroshima's atomic devastation and founded GK Industrial Design Group in 1952. Sadly, Ekuan died of a heart problem in Tokyo on Saturday.
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Obit> Duncan Nicholson, 1958–2015
Sad news for California architecture. Los Angeles architect Duncan Nicholson, known for ambitious residential work like a multi-use addition to John Lautner's Sheats Goldstein House, passed away last week after a battle with cancer. A statement from his firm, Nicholson Architects, is a beautiful tribute to Nicholson's creativity and his ability to inspire those around him. "It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our founding principal, mentor, and friend, Duncan Nicholson, who succumbed to his brief battle with cancer earlier this week (Jan 20). He was a man of simple truths and timeless beauty, two rare things in this world." "There is one fundamental idea that he tried to teach us, in both word and deed, and that is the power of the individual imagination to create a world that is at once unique, profound, and useful. He did not fear the word 'perfect' nor did he falter in his pursuit of that ideal. It is a heavy honor to carry on in his absence, and we will strive to do his legacy justice moving forward. Thank you to everyone who has expressed kind words of support. We are grateful and it is a comfort to know that others have shared in the love that we have for him.”
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Obit> Jordan Gruzen, principal at Gruzen Samton, dies at 80
Jordan Gruzen of Gruzen Samton Architects died on Tuesday at the age of 80. His firm traces its heritage back to 1936 and the firm of Kelly & Gruzen, founded by his father Sumner Gruzen with Colonel Hugh A. Kelly. Gruzen and his MIT classmate Peter Samton joined forces in 1967 and formed their still very active firm, Gruzen Samton (now associated with IBI Architects). They have had a significant impact on the city of New York where the firm focuses on university buildings, high density housing, and other institutional and educational projects. A full obituary of Gruzen will appear in the next issue of AN.
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Obit> Paul Katz: 1957–2014
The Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates website went to a black background this weekend to announce the passing of its dynamic, South African–born president Paul Katz. Katz had a quick penetrating mind but was an open and generous person who "trained and mentored" many young architects at the firm. The Architect's Newspaper will publish a longer obituary in its next issue.
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Remembering a great architect and mentor, Frederic Schwartz
The band came marching in at a quarter to six to tune up for Frederic Schwartz’s memorial. It was Wednesday, October 22. As I opened the door for Lucas De Hart, Schwartz’s godson and lead saxophonist of the De Hart Quartet, I accidentally slammed it into his drummer’s snare. I apologized, he nodded, we smiled, conscious of a shared understanding of place and circumstance. We were there to honor Schwartz, a world-renowned architect with more limestone and steel to immortalize his name than most. He was a mentor to many, and a friend to all who knew him. Schwartz’s name carries clout, and then some. Consider the setting of a memorial: everyone expected a smoothness; a no-time-like-the-present moment that invites a reaching for total flawlessness; a taunting of the otherwise certainty for human error: here, a wine glass toppling, a bottle erupting, a door colliding with a drum kit. The expectations for a memorial, as architect and mourner Marc L’Italien put it, is a lot like that for an architect: perfection. “There is a pretension that permeates our field,” he said, speaking of the kind of error-free, solution-a-plenty arrogance in so much of the contemporary architectural workplace—a pretension that doesn’t permeate Schwartz. “Fred polarized people,” L’Italien said, explaining that they were either dumbfounded by this bearded man in a tweed jacket and ink-stained khakis, or they absolutely loved him. “People used to say, ‘is this guy for real?’” David De Hart, one of Schwartz’s closest friends since they were floor mates at UC Berkeley, described Schwartz as “no bull, fun, and relatable.” Schwartz was a sartorial iconoclast in a profession mocked and lauded for its dress code of black, black, black, and black glasses. So I'm relieved, after my drum-door slam, that on the night we gathered to remember one of the world’s most respected architects—a man who wore a tie-dye shirt and bell bottoms to the dorm room’s football tryouts—we started off with a bang (pun intended) of the human element. During De Hart’s talk, the audience bursts into hilarity, keen to the inside jokes and subtle characterizations of Schwartz. Although I never met Schwartz, De Hart’s stories are beginning to win over my heart. Once, one story goes, he brought Schwartz home to meet his grandmother, a pious woman who had not spoken a word in months. Schwartz walked in, bearded and heavily haired, and, as if invigorated by the power of God, she leapt out of her seat to exclaim, “Thank you darling, you brought Jesus Christ home to me.” We do not know if she spoke another word again, but heard she died satisfied a few weeks later. Hilarity? Try howling. Many still took a more somber moment to remember Schwartz’s commitment: from students to colleagues, from clients to friends. As College of Environmental Design Dean Jennifer Wolch said, “Fred had an utter commitment to students, both as budding professionals and as human beings.” Brian Hong, a former student-slash-human-being, told of an email sent to Fred, turned recommendation letter (to Yale–he got in), turned friendship. In one of his final emails with Schwartz, in which they discussed work, life, and how to balance a checkbook, Schwartz wrote: “Before you can be a great architect, you must be a great human being.” The architect chose projects that benefitted the users first, his own legacy last. Hence Hong, playing on the theme of Schwartz’s catholic attentions, called Schwartz the “Robin Hood Architect.” Tracey Hummer, Schwartz’s partner since 1999, brought us home with a legend. “Fred’s father, Seymour, dropped him off at the George Washington Bridge and Fred hitch-hiked his way out to California,” she said, and then warned: this could be Fred lore. There were many Freds, Tracey said, each with their own stories: Fred the joker, Fred the artist, Fred the thinker, Fred the builder. Each has been talked about this evening, each has a story to accompany, and each has touched someone here tonight. As we sit in the chairs, listening to celebrations of Schwartz’s life, his godson’s band played one last song—John Coltrane’s “In a Sentimental Mood”—taking us to its namesake, united in memorial for the great architect and humanist, Frederic Schwartz. In 2009, while teaching in the Architecture Department as the Joseph Esherick Visiting Professor, he created The Frederic Schwartz Architecture Graduate Student Award to support high-achieving graduate students. Gifts to the fund can be made online here.
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Obit> Mildred "Mickey" Friedman, 1929–2014

Mildred Friedman, the longtime design curator of Minneapolis' Walker Art Center and a prolific architectural author, died Wednesday at her home in New York City. She was 85. Friedman, whose friends called her “Mickey,” ran the Walker for 21 years with her husband, Martin, who was its director. Together they made it “America's leading design museum,” according to a tribute from Architectural Record on the occasion of the couple's “retirement” in 1990.

As the museum's design curator, Ms. Friedman also edited its publication, Design Quarterly, which she managed deftly, according to Andrew Blauvelt, the Walker’s senior curator of design, research, and publishing. "With its singular focus, generous reproductions, and smart design, it was decidedly not one of those dry and often poorly designed, peer-reviewed, academic journals,” wrote Blauvelt in a remembrance. “Although it’s been more than 20 years since DQ ceased publication, the void that it left has never been filled.”

Much of her work curating and editing Design Quarterly would spin off into publications. Friedman wrote or co-wrote dozens of books, including Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History, the first large-scale museum survey of the field.

Since 1990, she and her husband had lived in New York City, where Ms. Friedman continued writing and curating at institutions including the Guggenheim Museum, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Under Friedman, shows at the Walker were not just shows but immersive experiences.

“In Mickey’s hands, a design show was never simply about a subject, but drew upon the principles and power of design itself to create a compelling experience,” wrote Blauvelt. “ This particular strategy of restaging, wherein visitors can not only look at works of art on view but also experience them directly and even viscerally, certainly drew upon Mickey’s skills and experience in interior design but also signaled a powerful new curatorial technique.”

In the Twin Cities design community, her influence was profound. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune quoted Dan Avchen, chief executive of HGA Architects and Engineers:

Mickey was instrumental in defining the architectural landscape of the Twin Cities by connecting patrons to architects … She was the design maven of the Twin Cities for many years and she had a huge impact— huge.

Friedman's legacy is inextricably linked to those of many 20th century architects. Her 1986 exhibition of Frank Gehry's work bolstered the architect's career—a feat she replicated by championing the likes of Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, Tod Williams, Billie Tsien and César Pelli, whom she also helped win commissions in the region by suggesting them for local landmark projects.

Born Mildred Shenberg in 1929, Ms. Friedman grew up in California. She met Martin Friedman at UCLA, where her future husband was teaching drawing as a graduate student in art history and painting. They married in 1949.

In 1980 she started the Mildred S. Friedman Design Fellowship, a program to give recent design graduates experience in her design studio at the Walker Art Center.

Her survivors include her husband, three daughters, and six grandchildren.

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Remembering Doug Wright, the man who helped tear down highways in San Francisco and Portland
San Francisco's deputy mayor for transportation—who played an integral role in getting the city to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake—passed away on July 30th. He was 68. After the earthquake struck the city, Wright convinced former San Francisco mayor, Art Agnos, to help lead the effort to remove the highway and replace it—not with another highway, but instead with a boulevard at street level. In the 1970s, Wright worked as the planning director in Portland, Oregon. He set a major urban planning milestone in the United States: he got the city to take down a large portion of Harbor Drive, a highway along the Willamette River and build a park—the Tom McCall Waterfront Park (named after former Oregon governor, Tom McCall)—in its place. In many ways his actions were visionary, setting a precedent for large scale urban freeway removal projects. In later decades, other cities let go of portions of their elevated highways, such as Boston, Milwaukee, and Seattle. Seattle is currently in the midst of boring the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement tunnel and planning a major redevelopment of the waterfront, designed by James Corner Field Operations. "I hate the word 'vision,' but he had a vision as to how transportation should be part of larger efforts to sustain the urban environment," Rudy Nothenberg told the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a colleague of Wright and San Francisco's former chief administration officer. "More than anyone I worked with, he was the kind of person you would want as a fermenter of ideas and possibility."
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Obit> Randall Stout, 1958–2014
Noted Los Angeles architect Randall Stout has died of cancer. He was 56. Stout served long tenures at SOM in Houston and at Gehry Partners in Los Angeles, then went on to found Randall Stout Architects in 1997. The office, which gained large commissions in the United States and Europe, became known for contortions of polished steel and raw stone, and for large, luminous interior spaces intimately connected to their surroundings. Despite these unusual forms, Stout's buildings were regarded as people friendly and practical. "Randall was a true architect," Richard Keating, who worked with Stout at SOM from 1978 to 1986, said. "He understood materials and budgets and made excellent buildings." Keating attributed this combination to his extended time with SOM and Gehry. "His approach to buildings was to be artful as well as responsible."  Stout's own firm set out by putting together raw—and striking—industrial-scale public buildings in Germany—such as the Bunde Fire Station and the Rehme Water Station—which he soon parlayed into high profile museum commissions in the U.S. and Canada. Perhaps Stout's most famous project, the Hunter Museum of Art, is located atop a limestone bluff in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The structure, showing off stainless steel curves and weathered zinc masses, takes its cues from the jagged landforms beneath it. It contrasts powerfully with the institution's adjacent Southern Colonial mansion. His Art Gallery of Alberta takes its inspiration from a cosmic storm, energetically threading large spans of reflective metal through an angular gridded glass facade. Stout, an associate professor at UNLV School of Architecture, became a nationally-known advocate and practitioner of sustainable architecture. He continued to land prestigious—and green—cultural work, like the Taubman Art Museum in Roanoke, Virginia and the Abroms-Engel Institute for Visual Arts in Birmingham, Alabama. His later designs, while still adventurous, were heading in a more subtle, orthogonal direction. Ashi Martin, a young associate at RSA, remembered Stout's obsession with crafting buildings for their users, an art he perfected through physical models. "He would bend down and look at the model and look at the correct perspective to see how it would look in human scale," she noted. "It was most about the experience." While Stout spent much of his life in California, his gentlemanly southern charm still moved clients and friends alike. "He was a lovely human being," said Cliff Pearson, an editor at Architectural Record who got to know Stout while covering the Hunter Museum. Pearson pointed to Stout's variety of professional experiences, from his native Knoxville, Tennessee to Texas to California. "These were incredible influences mixing together," said Pearson. Still, following in Gehry's footsteps, and maintaining some of his formal language, often invited comparisons to his old boss' work. "Getting out from under that shadow was a big challenge, and I’m not certain he ever totally did," said Pearson. It's a trial that many Los Angeles architects of Stout's generation have faced. "I don't think his work was well enough respected within the Los Angeles architecture community," said LA architect John Kaliski, a colleague of Stout's at SOM. "Obviously he worked for Frank, learned much from the master, and in many ways his work grew from the master. In the future, when people look at this era, I think his work will grow in stature and always be observed and respected in the same way that Walter Burley Griffin's and Marion Mahoney's is in relationship to Frank Lloyd Wright's. That is an amazing achievement." Gensler Managing Principal Rob Jernigan has known Stout since their days together at the University of Tennessee in the 1970s. He called his friend's work "world class architecture, and laments that his still-developing career was halted so soon. "He was at the height of his potential and it was taken away," he said. Jernigan acknowledged that Stout's work took on some of Gehry's "freedom of expression," but noted that it was very much his own. "He really understood the nature of the site and that the architecture derived from the site. His work was organic but free. The buildings come up out of the site but then they take flight. They sort of liberate themselves from the site," said Jernigan. Stout's office, located on Washington Boulevard in Culver City, has only four employees. The firm will finish work on active projects, but it is unclear if it will remain open after that, said Sabina Lira, a senior associate at RSA, and its longest tenured employee. RSA did not have a strict hierarchy—there were no principals outside of Stout—which could prove challenging moving ahead. Stout, who had been sick for almost three years prior to his passing, did not inform his workers of the severity of his condition until about a month ago. "He kept going with every aspect of the office until the last day," said Lira. Even then Stout was still asking questions about assignments, designs, and models, she added. "It shows how much he loved his work. It was his life." She added: "He asked that we not be sad about his death. That we celebrate our accomplishments. That we celebrate our designs as a reflection of his life." Stout is survived by his wife Joelle and their their three children.
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Obit> Stanley Marsh, 1938–2014
Amarillo, Texas philanthropist Stanley Marsh—a major figure on creating two of the most iconic art works in America—considered himself an "artist and a prankster." The patron of both Cadillac Ranch and Robert Smithson's Amarillo Ramp (1973), the third in a trilogy a trilogy of spirals that also included Spiral Jetty (1970) and Broken Circle/Spiral Hill (1971), Marsh was an heir to his family's oil-and-gas fortune. Chip Lord of avant-garde architecture and design group Ant Farm—the creator of Cadillac Ranch—has many fond memories of the prankster Texan:
Stanley was a correspondence artist and we met via the mail before we met in person. He had giant size stationary and envelopes, and of course large rubber stamps. When we met in person in 1973 he invited Ant Farm to make a proposal to do a project in Amarillo. It was called Cadillac Ranch from the get go as you can see from the blueprint proposal we sent him. In a letter he sent us dated March 8, 1974, Stanley wrote, "It's going to take me awhile to get used to the idea of Cadillac Ranch. I'll answer you by April Fool's day...If we put the Cadillac Ranch on Highway 66, near my airport, would the bodies of the Cadillacs lean towards the highway (south) or would they lean towards the prairie (north)? That's an important consideration." He was already thinking about publicity and wrote, "I like publicity. I want to see my name in lights in Times Square, but I do not want publicity in Amarillo, Texas. That is because I own a television station here and nearly any publicity concerning me would affect the station and post possibly would be distorted by some of the competitive media trying to harm me or the station...So I would want a media blackout as far as television, radio, and the newspapers in the Texas Panhandle are concerned. Of course, if they want to resurrect LIFE magazine for me, that would be fine."
Marsh has recently been accused of sexual harassment which he denied. He was hospitalized for two weeks with "various health issues, and was 76 at the time of his death. He wanted his epitaph to read "Thanks, everybody. I had a good time."
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Obit> Massimo Vignelli, 1931–2014
Massimo Vignelli—the world-renowned graphic designer and creative mind behind one of New York City's iconic past subway maps—has passed away at the age of 83. Earlier this month, it was reported that Vignelli was leaving the hospital to spend his final days at home with his family. At that  time, Vignelli’s son, Luca, asked all those who were inspired by his father to send him a letter. Those letters quickly came pouring in from designers around the world. AN has compiled a few of these letters below and many more can be found on Twitter under #dearMassimo. Vignelli was truly a giant in the field and he will be missed. https://twitter.com/greetabl/status/467063405460066304 https://twitter.com/DesignTimes/status/466607132885123073 https://twitter.com/dstraussdesign/status/464962099392024576 https://twitter.com/emodia/status/466123760404144128 https://twitter.com/IamKathrynGrace/status/465987478076526592 View more on Twitter or Gizmodo.