Great design figures who passed away in 2020

The “suspended” year of the pandemic, unfortunately, was a year of losses for design as well. Here is a look back at all the great personalities who left us in 2020

Manlio Armellini

The first name in this sad list is Manlio Armellini, secretary general and later CEO of Cosmit, the body that organized the Salone del Mobile di Milano. From 1965 to 2009, Manlio Armellini was the soul of the Salone del Mobile and was responsible for its transformation from a furniture fair into an international lifestyle event. Under his guidance, the Salone del Mobile grew from 97,000 square meters in 1974 to the current 207,577 square meters, with an authentic boom in professional visitors, from 67,000 to 315,353, half of which are international. In the meanwhile, the Italian furniture industry became a symbol of high-end Made in Italy production worldwide.

Manlio Armellini and the Salone del Mobile

Manlio Armellini

Enrico Astori

In May 2020, Enrico Astori, who founded Driade with Adelaide Acerbi, passed away. The company is one of the best representatives of made in Italy in the world and has always collaborated with many international designers. Among Driade’s many projects, we can mention the product that may be the best known to the general public, the Costes chair, designed by Philippe Starck for Café Costes in Paris, in 1984, and produced by Aleph/Driade.

Read here the full article dedicated to Enrico Astori

Enrico Astori and Adelaide Acerbi, ph: Aldo Ballo

Cini Boeri

The list of losses in the world of design in 2020 goes on with Cini Boeri. With Cini Boeri, an important part of post-world war II revival of made in Italy production period has gone. An architect and a designer, she created products that revolutionized the design of made in Italy furniture, from the Strips sofa, to the Bobo armchair, for Arflex, to the Ghost chair, by Fiam, to the Serpentone sofa, sold by the meter, for Arflex.

Click here for a short summary of her career

Cini Boeri on the Ghost chair, designed for Fiam

Carlo Bartoli

Carlo Bartoli, the designer famous for the 4875 chair by Kartell and other products for leading Italian companies, including the UNO chair by Segis, winner of the Compasso d’Oro 2008, died in August 2020. In 2016, he received the Compasso d’Oro Lifetime Achievement Award.

Carlo Bartoli at the Compasso d’Oro award ceremony 2008

Claudio Campeggi

Transformative design: this is how we could describe Campeggi, a company that has been able to enhance the playful side of furniture for small spaces. Collaborating with the most famous international designers, Campeggi has produced dozens of successful products, characterized by simplicity and transformability, and a cheerful look. Unfortunately, also Claudio Campeggi left us in 2020.

Claudio Campeggi. Foto Efrem Raimondi

Sir Terence Conran: a life for design

A huge loss also for British design in 2020. In September, Sir Terence Conran, the founder of The Conran Shop, Habitat, and much more, passed away. Born in Kingston upon Thames, one of London’s Royal Boroughs, in the Thirties, Terence Conran worked with design and food throughout his life, mixing them in the creation of concept stores, the management of restaurants and the active promotion of culture. He opened stores and restaurants in the UK, New York, France, Japan, Korea (and in Italy, where unfortunately Habitat had a very short life – now it has come back, but with a different owner). He also wrote books, founded museums and in 1983 was appointed Knight Bachelor.

Read here the whole story of Sir Terence Conran

Sir Terence Conran

Ernesto Gismondi

On the last day of the year, also Ernesto Gismondi, the founder of Artemide, died. An aeronautical engineer, in his many interviews, he always stressed that he would have liked to build a missile. In the end, he did not build the missile, but he used his competence to establish one of the companies that best represent made in Italy production in the world, Artemide.

Loss in the world of design: Ernesto Gismondi, the founder of Artemide passed away

Ernesto Gismondi with the Discovery lamp, winner of the Compasso d’Oro Award 2018

Christian Liaigre

Among the most important figures who died in 2020 is also Christian Liaigre, the architect and interior designer who changed the concept of interiors in boutique hotels forever. With the projects of the Hotel Montalembert in Paris (1990) and the Mercer Hotel in New York (1998), the idea of “boutique hotels” as we know them now was born and developed. And with them, a new idea of simplicity, essential, “physical” and textural at once.

Discover the universe of Christian Liaigre

A room of The Mercer Hotel, New York, project by Christian Liaigre (1998)

Enzo Mari

2020 also took the life of Enzo Mari, a designer who played a crucial role in the post-world war II made in Italy production. During his very long career, Enzo Mari designed over 1,500 objects and artifacts, many of which have become everyday objects. As he probably wanted, and as it should be: not exhibited in the wrong place, but simply used for the function for which they were intended. Which, after all, should be the goal of design.

Enzo Mari: the Italian for design is progetto

Enzo Mari

Rodrigo Rodriquez

Rodrigo Rodriquez is another giant in Italian design who left us in 2020. In all industrial sectors there are figures who are not widely known to the general public but hold key positions. They are authentic dei ex machina who make the fortune of some companies working out of the spotlight. Graduated in Law, holding an MBA from IPSOA in Turin, Rodrigo Rodriquez was among the first entrepreneurs who applied to the furniture sector the management approach of a major industry. He debuted in the design world in 1969, with C&B Italia, of which he was General Manager until 1972. In 1973, he joined Cassina as General Manager, a position he held until 1980, when he became Vice President and CEO, until 1991. He was also closely related to the Cassina family as he married Adele, with whom he had four children. Besides this, he also founded Marcatrè and held numerous public positions.

Discover more about Rodrigo Rodriquez

Rodrigo Rodriquez

Roberto Poggi

At the end of 2020, also Roberto Poggi, a cabinetmaker from Pavia who, with his company, was a leading figure in the development of designer furniture from the 1940s onwards, passed away. His collaboration with Franco Albini and Franca Helg resulted in the “Tre Pezzi” armchair (PL19), still produced by Cassina. Many furnishings were designed by the Poggi brothers’ company, from the Luisa chair designed by Franco Albini, to the products designed by Marco Zanuso or Vico Magistretti, and, in more recent times, by Renzo Piano, Afra and Tobia Scarpa, and others. Unfortunately, the company closed in the early 2000s, and Roberto Poggi died a few days ago.

PL19 armchair, aka Tre Pezzi, designed by Franco Albini and Franca Helg, produced by Poggi brothers’ company, now reissued by Cassina

Nanda Vigo

Among the creatives who passed away in 2020, Nanda Vigo was an architect, a designer and an artist. An all-round creative, her work ranged from art to design to interior architecture. About her houses, she said they were built around light. Light guided the project; the architecture of the interiors was closely interwoven with light. Among her best-known projects, Remo Brindisi House Museum, in Lido di Spina, one of Ferrara’s seaside resorts.

Nanda Vigo: art, light, design

Nanda Vigo

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