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Modernist Memoriam: Architects We Lost in 2017

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins on Tuesday, December 19th, 2017 at 12:51pm.

Here at Nook, we have a passion for people, places, and properties. For #TastemakerTuesday at the end of 2017, we wish to pay homage to those who passed. 

  • Ivan Chermayeff, Graphic designer for The Museum of Modern Art and many of corporate America’s signature looks, passed away at the age of 85. Some of the many definitive looks designed by his firm include NBC, Pan Am, National Geographic, the Southern Poverty Law Center. For these designs they received the AIGA Medal for graphic design and visual communication in 1979, the Yale Arts Medal and the President’s Fellow Award from the Rhode Island School of Design. 
  • For Vincent Scully, 97, architecture was “the most beautiful and important human act.” As not just an influential architectural historian, but also a teacher, he inspired generations of forward thinkers. Scully believed that architecture was as resonant in our lives as poetry, and often read passages from literature to accompany his slide lectures. Scully linked architecture with the landscape with mythology, leaving his own lasting impression on all who knew him. 
  • Gunnar Birkerts came to the United States at the end of World War II and settled in Detroit, where he stayed working and teaching for the rest of his life. Birkert is known for the Corning Glass Museum, the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, the Duluth Public LIbrary in Minnesota, but is best known for the National Library of Latvia in Riga. He worked on the library for 25 years, and it was not only one of his greatest design accomplishments but also a homecoming for Birkerts.
  • Albert Ledner studied at the Tulane School of Architecture before attending the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship in Wisconsin. It was his design for C.V. Goldate in New Orleans, however, that made Ledner’s name, after being featured in House Beautiful. The National Maritime Union was next, followed by more meeting halls and a pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows in Queens. His modernism paired with a quirky sense of humor to create meeting halls with some energy and often unorthodox design choices. 
  • Influential modern architect William Krisel was known for his playful Palm Spring tract homes and signature butterfly roofs. In the 1950s and 60s he took modernism to suburbia, creating easy to build ground-plans with enough distinctive motifs to make a neighborhood interesting and attractive. 
  • We wrote at length about Dame Zaha Hadid, the architect who earned her names “Queen of the Curve” or “Starchitect”. She was never limited by known shapes or geometry in her designs. Hadid’s career took off in her mid life, earning her the Stirling Award, 2004 Pritzker Architecture Price and the 2016 Royal Gold Medal in Architecture. 
  • David Marks and his wife Julia Barfield changed the skylines of many international cities, starting with a competition to design a landmark they entered as a lark. The London Eye opened in 2000, at first with just a temporary permit to be dismantled and relocated. The breathtaking views and dramatic designs attract millions every year, expanding to other locations around the world.


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