In a nod to the tradition propagated by the Oscars, we decided to take time to acknowledge the most influential figures in our sphere that have passed away in the last year. While this list is in no way exhaustive—from music to art and design and more, the world lost an immense amount of talent this past year—the 12 luminaries featured here strike a particular chord for their immeasurable talent and contributions to their respective fields. Read on to remember the innovators who have passed but will continue to inspire the creative community for countless years to come.
Famed Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer passed last year at the ripe age of 104, working until his death and leaving behind a legacy of Modernist masterpieces. Best known for his lyrical and radiant museum in Rio de Janeiro and government buildings in Brasília, Niemeyer is credited with helping Brazil carve out a national architectural identity. A contemporary of Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, Niemeyer revolutionized Brazilian architecture much in the same way Le Corbusier and Wright did in the Europe and the US.
Far and away the most significant blow to the web this year was the suicide of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, following a long and polemic federal prosecution. Swartz was critical in giving the world Reddit, RSS and Creative Commons, as well as promoting freedom of access to information in all forms. He will be sorely missed.
Ferdinand Alexander Porsche
As grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche was in a large part responsible for the appearance of the iconic 904 and 911 models. The latter made its debut at the 1963 Frankfurt Auto Show, fortifying Ferdinand Alexander’s legacy and bringing the company into a new era of auto making.
Writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak is best-loved for his 1963 book “Where the Wild Things Are.” The seminal text was at first banned in libraries for controversial themes, but has since been read by millions and inspired several adaptations. Filmed months before his death, this interview with Stephan Colbert serves as a fond remembrance.
Helen Gurley Brown
As editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan for 32 years, Helen Gurley Brown is credited with creating the “Cosmo Girl” and promoting sexual liberation for women, not to mention exposing the world to Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug. Her bestselling book “Sex and the Single Girl” remains an influential reference point for gender progress of the 1960s.
Adam “MCA” Yauch
Brooklyn-born rapper and Beastie Boys founding member Adam Yauch broke down genres in creating a signature sound from hip hop and punk influences. The music icon took his group from a garage band to superstardom alongside Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Adrock” Horovitz. In addition to music, Yauch led charities for Tibetan citizens, 9/11 victims and directed several of the band’s music videos.
With his pioneering “bob cut,” British hairdresser Vidal Sassoon forever changed the fashion and beauty industry with a geometric, Bauhaus-inspired look. Nancy Kwan, Rita Hayworth and Mia Farrow all helped expose the world to the boyish, low-maintenance hairdo.
Titles such as “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man,” “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes” have cemented Ray Bradbury‘s place as one of the world’s great science fiction writers—even elevating the genre of science fiction as we know it. Now required reading, “Fahrenheit 451” celebrates books and illustrates the importance of reading in the digital age.
The influence of the late, great Ravi Shankar can’t be overstated—teaching Western music luminaries from John Coltrane to George Harrison, his sitar sound has been a landmark in the world of music. His label, East Meets West Music, was likewise critical in cultivating the genre of world music.
As head of auto design firm Pininfarina, Sergio Pininfarina continued his father’s legacy in overseeing the creation of numerous classic cars. The Ferrari F40, Alfa Romeo Spider and Peugeot 504 Cabriolet represent a few contributions to Italian automotive design from his time as chairman.
As the first American woman to enter space, Sally Ride influenced generations of young women to pursue careers in the sciences. After her time with NASA, Ride went on to write books for children and adults on space and environmental conservation.
Carroll Hall Shelby
After a decorated career behind the wheel as a race car driver, Carroll Shelby moved into automotive design, influencing the look of the Dodge Viper, Daytona Coupe and his namesake, the Mustang-based Shelby GT350 and GT500, among others. His company, Shelby American, continues to manufacture new Shelbys and vintage replicas.
Image credits after the jump.
Image Credits (in order of appearance):
Oscar Niemeyer portrait by Roger Pic (Creative Commons); Catedral of Brasília by Ulrich Gärtner (Creative Commons); Aaron Swartz portrait by Sage Ross (Creative Commons); Ferdinand Alexander Porsche portrait courtesy of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG; Maurice Sendak portrait courtesy of HaperCollins; Helen Gurley Brown portrait by John Bottega (Public Domain); Adam Yauch portrait by Fabio Venni (Creative Commons); Vidal Sassoon (Public Domain); Sassoon Salon, Leeds image by Wikimedia Commons user Mtaylor848; Ray Bradbury portrait by Alan Light (Creative Commons); Ravi Shankar portrait from East Meets West Music; Sergio Pininfarina portrait courtesy of Pininfarina; Sally Ride portrait courtesy of NASA; Carroll Hall Shelby photograph courtesy of Carroll Shelby Foundation