in memoriam | Aug 17, 2023 |
Remembering Thierry Despont

Thierry Despont, the French architect and designer, passed away last week at the age of 75, Elle Decor reports. In his lifetime, Despont earned recognition for his talent in transforming historic buildings—a legacy that unfolded in a wide-ranging portfolio, spanning from the Ritz Paris to the restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

Born in Limoges, France, Despont followed in the footsteps of his father, also an architect, and went on to study at École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and eventually Harvard University, where he earned a master’s degree in city planning and urban design. Once settled in the United States, his career gained traction after he joined the New York office of British architects Lewellyn-Davies, where he helped complete the redesign of Tehran’s city center for the Shah of Iran.

In 1980, Despont established his own practice in Manhattan. Within a few years, the firm secured the widely sought-after commission for the centennial restoration of the Statue of Liberty—a $60 million undertaking, and one that cemented Despont’s place in the industry as a master of revitalizing historic spaces.

In the years to follow, his firm added a number of significant projects to its portfolio, including the renovation and expansion of Cartier’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue, the conversion of the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan into luxury property Casa Cipriani and the reported $450 million redesign of the Ritz Paris. Despont also oversaw a number of private residential projects for high profile clients—including Calvin Klein, Bill Gates and Oscar de la Renta—and designed the interiors of luxury high rises such as 53 West 53 and 220 Central Park South.

His contributions to the industry earned him a place in the Interior Design Hall of Fame and the distinction of becoming a Knight of the French Legion of Honor and a Knight of the Arts and Letters. According to a statement from his office to Architectural Record, his firm will continue operating under the guidance of its current team, who plan to honor Despont’s spirit and legacy in its future endeavors.

In the interior design industry, many who learned their trade working under the wing of Despont are now mourning the legendary designer following the news of his passing. That cohort includes designer Joy Moyler, who described working under Despont early in her career as “a gift” on social media. “Some of the most influential projects of my career were projects with Thierry,” wrote Moyler. “I will forever be grateful.”

Homepage image: Thierry Despont | Courtesy of Design Partners

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