The design industry is mourning the loss of Uwe Bahnsen, widely recognized as one of most influential European automotive designers of the 20th Century. The German designer passed away at his home in France on July 30. He was 83 years old.
Bahnsen was a former Ford of Europe Design VP and Art Center Europe transportation design director as well as the President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Designers.
Credited with the designs of the Sierra, Scorpio, Capri II and Escort MK3 as well as the Taunus 17m ‘Bathtub’ during his tenure at Ford, Bahnsen was an inspiration to not only the many students he taught at Art Center Europe, but also those who worked with him.
Former Renault design director and President of the Advisory Board the Sustainable Design School, Patrick le Quément, fondly remembers Bahnsen as “an honorable man”.
“He was my mentor, and long after I left Ford I remained close to him,” le Quément wrote on LinkedIn. “He believed that we designers had to get our act together if we wanted to be recognized as equals to other disciplines. For him it was intolerable for design reps to arrive late at meetings, he never wanted to hear: ‘Ah these artists’”.
“Uwe had courage and convictions, talent and professionalism, he had a vision. He remains the most important influence in my career.”
Ajay Jain, a senior designer at SAIC Motor in Shanghai, also benefitted from Bahnsen’s tutelage, sharing a memorable anecdote about his time at Art Center Europe on a post on Facebook.
“I vividly remember being impressed by his getting his hands dirty, one summer break day when we decided to investigate what lay in the shed at the far end of the car park,” wrote Jain. “We waded through cobwebs and layers of dust to fish out scale models and other student work of yester term – work from the very early years of ACCD(E). He walked in and out of there impeccably dressed as always and recalled the students and the projects we had salvaged.”
“Almost all of my bosses and mentors in this industry have been ‘students’ of Uwe Bahnsen in one form or another and although he is no longer with us, I will no doubt continue to feel and acknowledge his presence throughout my career and professional journey.”
His former colleagues at Art Center also remember Bahnsen fondly.
Geoff Wardle, current head of the ACCD graduate program in Transportation Design, worked closely with Bahnsen in the Transportation Design department at Art Center Europe.
“I have always acknowledged Uwe Bahnsen along with Patrick le Quément, 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,” Wardle wrote in this month’s ACCD newsletter.
“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.”
Born in Germany, Bahnsen studied at the College of Fine Arts in Hamburg, was an accomplished painter and sculptor, and was one of the most revered and admired leaders of the Art Center campus in Vevey, Switzerland.
Our thoughts and condolences are with his family.
H/T to Michael
Main Image: National Portrait Gallery © Alistair Morrison (1983)