Remembering the Architects Lost to Covid-19

Covid-19 has claimed the lives of over 350,000 people around the world, and among them are some brilliant architects. Here we remember some of the architects who are known to have passed away after contracting the coronavirus

Images courtesy of Perkins+Will

Rifat Chadirji

Considered to be the father of Iraqi architecture, Rifat Chadirji died on 10 April after contracting the coronavirus at the age of 93. Responsible for over 100 buildings in Iraq, Chadirji’s most notable works include Tahrir Square's Freedom Monument, the Unknown Soldier Monument, the Tobacco Monopoly Headquarters and Baghdad’s Central Post Office. He was known for merging traditional Iraqi architecture with contemporary aesthetics, in a style that became known as international regionalism.

His awards include the 1986 Aga Khan Chairman Award, a 1982 honorary fellowship at the Royal Institute of British Architects and a 1987 honorary fellowship of The American Institute of Architects. The Rifat Chadirji Prize for Architecture was launched in his honour by Tamayouz Excellence Award in 2017.

“ By reconnecting architects with the machines that create the design, you are reconnecting the world of conception with the world of making. 

“We saw it little by little, where the contractor takes this sort of abstract concept, takes the entire contract and then it becomes this design and build thing, so the architect just became the sort of concept designer. 

“This really was bad, and so when I hear designed by this architect, when we know that the contractor took over the thing at a very early concept stage, I always cringe because, to me, every aspect of design is designed. 

“From the size of a truck that constrains your building to the fireman telling you that this is not compliant, all this is design, and by reconnecting architects with the machines that create the design, you are reconnecting the world of conception with the world of making. And to me, that's ultimately the best thing about that, it's to reconnect the designers with what they actually designed.”

Rifat Chadirji, 1926-2020. Image courtesy of Tamayouz Excellence Award

Michael Sorkin

Renowned as an architect, urbanist and writer, Michael Sokin died on 26 March as a result of complications from Covid-19 at the age of 71. Throughout his career, he championed sustainability and social justice, with pioneering projects and research exploring a host of emerging ideas, including green roofs, vertical farms and sustainable energy sources, both through his firm Michael Sorkin Studio and his non-profit research group Terreform.

He was also a prolific writer, authoring or editing around 20 books across his lifetime, and academic, holding positions including professor of urbanism and director of the Institute of Urbanism at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna; Gensler Chair at Cornell University and Hyde Chair at Nebraska University. At the time of his death, he was professor of architecture and director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at City College of New York.

Michael Sorkin, 1948-2020. Image courtesy of Terreform.

Vittorio Gregotti

Renowned for his sports and cultural designs, Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti died on 15 March after contracting the coronavirus aged 92. The founder of Gregotti Associati International, Gregotti co-designed the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics stadium and the 1990 Football World Cup Marassi stadium. Other work includes the Grand Théâtre de Provence in France, the Arcimboldi Opera Theater in Milan, Italy, and the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon, Portugal. He also designed a number of cities, including the Pujiang New Town in Shanghai, China, and Bicocca, a district in Milan.

Gregotti was known for his ability to blend historic architectural styles with the new, such as with the Olympic stadium, which was renovated from a 1929 structure and in which he chose to retain the original walls and towers. Gregotti also resisted switching to digital technology, drafting all his projects by hand.

Vittorio Gregotti, 1927-2020.

Michael McKinnell

Best known for co-designing iconic brutalist masterpiece Boston City Hall, Michael McKinnell died on 27 March after testing positive for Covid-19, aged 84. Designed to express civic power while providing the capacity to evolve, Boston City Hall has become a key structure in brutalism, known for its inverted ziggurat and recessed front facade, and the dominant project of his career. However, through his practice Kallmann McKinnell & Wood, co-founded with Gerhard Kallmann and Edward Knowles, McKinnell was responsible for numerous other projects, including the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences headquarters in Cambridge and Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

McKinnell also served on Harvard’s Graduate School of Design faculty for a quarter of a century, and as Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Professor of the Practice of Architecture. In 1994 he was given the Award of Honor by Boston Society of Architects, and served on the US Commission of Fine Arts from 2005-2011.

Michael McKinnell, 1935-2020. Image courtesy  of the Boston Society for Architecture.

Ahmad Djuhara

Leading Indonesian architect Ahmad Djuhura died on 27 March after contracting Covid-19, aged 54. Having co-founded the firm Djuhara + Djuhara with his wife and fellow architect Wendy Djuhara, he became a prominent voice in Indonesian architecture. Djuhara was known for ultra-low-budget projects that were praised for their impressive utilisation of space. Notable works include 2002’s Sugiharto Steel House, 2008’s Wisnu & Ndari House and 2007’s Shining Stars Kindergarten, all of which are located in Jakarta and received IAI awards.

Throughout his career, Djuhara played an active role in the Indonensian architecture community. After graduating in 1991, he played a key role in the Young Indonesian Architects Forum, coordinating publications, exhibitions and talks, and became involved in the modern Asian Architecture Network (mAAN), eventually being appointed mAAN Indonesia vice-coordinator in 2005. He also served as the chairman of the Indonesian Architects Association (IAI) from 2006-2009.

Ahmad Djuhara, 1966-2020. Image courtesy of IAI.