It is with much sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of Uwe Bahnsen, a beloved director and leader of Art Center Europe from 1986 to 1995.
Recognized as one of the most influential European automotive designers of the 20th Century, Uwe was an inspiration and role model for our students and faculty during those exciting years in Europe. He was a former Vice President of Design for Ford of Europe, as well as the President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Designers from 1995 to 1997. He was born in Hamburg, Germany, studied at the College of Fine Arts in Hamburg, was an accomplished painter and sculptor, and was truly one of the most revered and admired leaders of the Art Center campus in Vevey, Switzerland.
Geoff Wardle, currently heading our graduate program in Transportation Design and former chair of the Trans department at Art Center Europe, knew Uwe Bahnsen well and wrote movingly about his admiration and respect for this giant of automobile design:
I have always acknowledged Uwe Bahnsen along with Patrick LeQuement, his protégé, as the two automotive designers who most effectively invested their considerable intellect and energy to elevating the importance of design within the car industry and to the outside world. They did this in a way that has helped all of us who followed in their path. Not only that, both men added gravitas to the profession by truly understanding the full scope of design – as opposed to just styling – and how to fully leverage the contribution of the design process and philosophy into manufacturing industry.
Provost Fred Fehlau, remembering Uwe with great fondness, added the following:
I worked with Uwe when I was teaching one summer in the late ‘80s. He liked fast cars, good food and especially enjoyed working with students. He always had a smile on his face, as if he was getting more from them than they were getting from him. But he never let on.
Art Center has been distinguished throughout its history by many fine and impressive attributes, but nothing is more important or celebrated than the great people who have given so much and who have graced our community with their talent and skill. In Uwe, we have lost a great teacher, a true leader, and a wonderful friend.
Our condolences and warm wishes go to his family at this difficult time.
Dr. Lorne M. Buchman is the president of Art Center College of Design.