James Irvine dies


18 February 2013

The British designer James Irvine has died at the Hospital Fatebenefratelli in Milan, Italy. He was 54.

An industrial designer, Irvine was born in London and studied at the city's Royal College of Arts before moving to Milan in 1984. Irvine would spend the majority of his career in Italy - founding his own studio there in 1988 - and died in Milan's Hospital Fatebenefratelli's last night.

A spokesperson for Irvine's studio said that the studio had been devastated to learn of Irvine's death and that the future of the studio was uncertain.

"We only heard the news this morning and are all shocked," he said. "We’re not thinking about the studio now; it's something we will look at over the next few days."

Irvine made his name working as a design consultant for Italian brand Olivetti between 1984 and 1992, where he developed projects under the guidance of Italian designers Michele De Lucchi and Ettore Sottsass. Irvine would subsequently serve as a partner of Sottsass' studio until 1998.

A contemporary and close friend of Jasper Morrison, Irvine and Morrison organised Progetto Oggetto for Cappellini in 1992, a collection of household objects designed in conjunction with young European designers; a collection that has gone on to include works by designers such as Marcel Wanders, Inga Sempé, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and Nendo.

Like Morrison, Irvine became known for a love of simple functional designs. His S5000 sofa (2006) for Thonet is an elegant, minimalist seat with a tubular steel base, while the Tubo chair (1998) for BRF is a plain curving chair, mounted on four splayed steel tube legs.

One of Irvine's most celebrated projects was his design for the Üstra (2000), a city bus manufactured by Mercedes Benz on the occasion of the World's Fair in Hanover.

Asked about his design ethos, Irvine once remarked, “Always question why you’re doing something, unless you are being paid a ridiculous amount of money, then really question it."

A memorial service will be held in Milan on Wednesday. Irvine is survived by his wife and two children.