The Twentieth Century Society

Short obituaries

Charles Correa
Charles Correa, who died last June aged 84, was often called ‘India’s greatest architect’ and shaped the architecture of post-independence India. His work including the Gandhi Ashram memorial in Gujarat (1958–63), designed when he was just 28, and the Madhya Pradesh Assembly building (1996). In the 1970s, he was appointed chief architect for the new city of Navi Mumbai, home to more than two million people. Joseph Rykwert in the Guardian said that the Gandhi Ashram, a brick and concrete, stone-floored grouping of square, pitched-roof pavilions showed ‘an authentic Indian modernity that superseded the condescending orientalism and stale imports of colonialism.’

Setting up practice in Mumbai in 1958, he undertook pioneering work on urban planning and affordable housing, and placed a particular focus on resources, energy and climate. The Architectural Digest said that, in an age of ‘starchitects’, Correa avoided ego and heroics and focused on housing a growing and impoverished population in his home country and on the aesthetic challenges of imagining a new building style for India that was both modern and mindful of the past.

Donald Wexler
The architect Donald Wexler who has died aged 89, helped make Palm Springs a showcase for mid-century modernism, said the New York Times, citing his innovative steel houses and soaring glass-fronted terminal at the Palm Springs International Airport. Wexler, who was a disciple of the California architect Richard Neutra, went to Palm Springs in the early 1950s to work for William Cody, a leading practitioner of the Desert Modern style: light and elegant, with floor-to-ceiling windows, fluid interior layouts, multiple sliding doors opening onto exterior living spaces and pools, and design features, like deep overhangs, that accommodated sunlight and shadow.

Wexler formed a partnership with Richard Harrison in 1952, and their first large project was El Rancho Vista Estates (1960), 75 low-slung single-family houses with decorative concrete-block walls and floor-to-ceiling glass walls oriented toward the mountains, some with the folded ‘butterfly’ roofs that became one of his signatures.

Richard Sapper
The German industrial designer Richard Sapper has died aged 83. He created such ‘iconic’ products as the Artemide Tizio desk lamp, IBM ThinkPad laptops and the Alessi whistling kettle. His most notable collaboration was with the Italian architect and designer Marco Zanuso, and they designed a series of stylish radios and TVs for Brionvega.

In the Guardian, Penny Sparke said that he combined the rationality and technical virtuosity of German design and engineering with the flair and elegance of Italian styling. Thanks to Sapper and Zanuso, household electronic devices became pieces of sculpture, at home in the chic modern Italian domestic environment that made such an impact across the globe.