by Sukanya GargJul 16, 2020
At a time when the world is submerged in uncertainty due to the novel coronavirus pandemic that is currently plaguing humanity, we take a moment to remember the creatives that we lost to this deadly virus.
The American architect, urbanist, critic and educator, Sorkin was considered one of architecture’s most outspoken public intellectuals. As the founder of New York-based Michael Sorkin studio and Terreform, his work span disciplines of design, urbanism, green urbanism, criticism and pedagogy. His oeuvre, which includes an incredible repository of critical writings advocate his vision of more equitable, and sustainable cities. He passed away on March 26 in Manhattan after being infected with the COVID-19.
Poet Laurie Sheck remembered him as a loving and generous gadfly. Juan Miró of Austin-based Miró Rivera Architects described him as someone who was "unapologetic for his razor-sharp criticism yet was also generous, warm, and often self-deprecating and unafraid to share self-doubts".
2. Luigi Feltrin
The Italian furniture brand Arper, which creates chairs, tables and furnishing for community work and home, lost its founder, Luigi Feltrin (aged 85) to COVID-19 on April 5. Feltrin had started the company in 1989 with his two sons, Claudio and Mauro in Venice and over the years, turned it into a brand of reputed international presence. A statement from the Arper website remembers Feltrin’s moving guidance to his employees: “I tell young people that we may find a few difficulties and obstacles along our life’s path. But they mustn’t get downhearted at the first hurdle, they should stop and think things over.”
3. Sergio Rossi
The legendary footwear designer and the brain behind the eponymous Italian shoemaker brand, Rossi (84) died from complications over COVID-19 in Casena, Italy, on April 02. He was one of the few from the postwar generation who transformed the face of Italian fashion industry. Born in Italy’s San Mauro Pascoli, young Rossi imbibed impeccable artisan skills while working with his father in the 1940s and later took over the family business. He launched the brand Sergio Rossi in 1968, taking the world by storm. Some of the brand’s most signature products include the classic high heeled Godiva pump, square heeled Virginia and round soled Opanca sandal.
Rossy never considered shoes as an add on to a women’s outfit, to him they were an integral element and an extension to a woman’s body. A reason why his products were painstakingly designed with 120 steps and 14 hours of craftsmanship.
4. Michael McKinnell
The British-American architect’s most significant contribution and the project that launched his career has been the design of the brutalist icon, Boston City Hall. It was a competition that he won with fellow architect and Columbia professor Gerhard Kallmann in 1962, which led to the inception of their firm, Kallmann McKinnell & Wood in Boston. The building’s porous perimeter of concrete and brick rendered a bold expression of the civic power when it got completed in 1969. His other projects include Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia and Hynes Convention Center in Boston. McKinnell, aged 84, died on March 27, in Beverly, Massachusetts.
5. Vittorio Gregotti
Prolific Italian architect, city planner, writer, and educator Vittorio Gregotti of Milan -based Gregotti Associati died on March 15, 2020 at the age of 92 after contracting COVID-19. He was one of the pioneering figures of the 20th century architecture who championed modernism and transformed the face of Italy and the world beyond. Some of his major projects include the Barcelona Olympic Stadium, Milan’s Arcimboldi Opera Theatre and Belem Cultural Center in Lisbon.
As the director of the visual arts section of the Venice Biennale that was founded in 1975, he introduced space as a subject of exploration, which was spiritedly taken forward by various artists at that time. Architect Renzo Piano, who was once a protégé to Gregotti, remembered him as "a friend and a strict guide" in a statement to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
6. Daniel Azulay
The iconic Brazilian comic book artist and educator Daniel Azulay was being treated for leukemia when he contracted coronavirus, and later succumbed to its complications on March 27. He was an unforgettable inspiration for a generation of Brazilians who grew up watching Turma do Lambe-Lambe on TV - his most recognised work from 1975 that followed a group of characters comprising human kids and anthropomorphic animals. It was much recently that the Rio de Jeneiro-born artist delved into paintings and presented his works across various international exhibitions . People remember Azulay as someone who always had a big smile on his face, while some recall their childhood memories of watching his shows and learning the art of doodling.
7. Jenny Polanco
With over four decades of experience in fusing sophisticated lines, drapes and exquisite cuts in her signature women’s clothing, Polanco’s work has been widely acknowledged. Her work is characterised by ‘a fluid dialogue between classic avant-garde style and the Caribbean.’ Polanco owns several boutiques in her home country, Dominican Republic, and has worked across Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Paris and New York. One of her recent initiatives called ‘Project’ worked towards promoting the local craftsmanship. Polanco, 62, was said to have contracted the novel coronavirus from an earlier trip to Madrid , where she passed away on March 24.
8. David Driskell
Driskell was an artist, historian, art collector, educator and more recognisably an advocate for the role of African American art. Trained as a painter and art historian, he worked primarily in collage and mixed media, and printmaking. His work made it clear that African American art is essential to the American art canon. One of his ground-breaking exhibitions titled Two Centuries of Black American Art: 1750-1950 has been a foundation for the field since 1976. The recipient of many coveted honours including the three Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, Driskell died on April 01 from complications due to COVID-19.
9. Juan Giménez
Argentinean comic book artist Juan Giménez is best known for his 1992 hallmark series Metaborons, created with writer Alejandro Jodorowsky. After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona, he focused on working in the genre of science fiction. Soon his name was recognised in the European comic scene, resulting in works such as the Harry Canyon section of the 1981 animated classic, Heavy Metal. The 76-year-old Giménez, an inspiration to many, passed away from coronavirus on April 02.
10. Leila Menchari
Menchari, a Tunisian designer, for 35 years crafted window displays of the Hermès store located at Faubourg Saint-Honoré street in Paris. Her magical staging of the windows never failed to cast a spell on the passersby, leaving them navigate a path through her dreams. Menchari, a graduate of the Beaux-Arts, has been associated with Hermès since 1961. Storytelling and a deep admiration for Dali and other surrealists led to create works that would often result in both the feelings of elation and dizziness.
Remembering the legend who died on April 4, Axel Dumas, CEO Hermès, said, “When designing a scene, there must always be some mystery, for mystery is the springboard to dreams. Mystery is an invitation to fill in the gaps left by the imagination. This is how Leïla Menchari explains one of the secrets behind the success of her flamboyant window displays.”
The extraordinary contribution of these creative veterans, their brilliance, generosity, and spirit will be sorely missed.