Tributes paid to "pioneering and visionary" journalist Marcus Fairs
Architects, designers and critics have paid tribute to Dezeen founder and editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs for his "phenomenal contribution to architecture and design publishing".
The design and architecture communities were left shocked by the news of Fairs' death, with Norman Foster, Thomas Heatherwick, Kelly Hoppen, Es Devlin, Philippe Starck and Olafur Eliasson among the numerous architects and designers paying tribute.
Fairs was described as a "dear and joyous friend" by Devlin, an " inspiration" by Foster and a "real pioneer" by Starck.
"Marcus was a true pioneer, inspiration and a force of nature"
Fairs founded Dezeen in 2006, making it one of the first design-focused digital publications and helping transform how many viewed and found about design and architecture news.
"Terribly sad, shocking news," said Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright on Twitter. "Marcus changed online publishing as we know it and was always a mischievous, provocative presence in the design world."
"A pioneering and visionary journalist, Marcus was instrumental in setting a new direction of architectural journalism in the UK," echoed Foster + Partners founder Foster. "At Dezeen he created a global platform for architecture and design, raising the profile of creative industries the world over."
"Marcus was a true pioneer, inspiration and a force of nature who changed our industry," added interior designer Hoppen. "He made such an important contribution to design and creativity with his genius platform reaching millions of people."
Fairs created "the most successful design website in history"
Among many accolades Fairs received throughout his career, the impact of Dezeen led to him being the first digital journalist to receive a RIBA Honorary Fellowship. He established the online publication from his spare room at a time when many, including designer Heatherwick, didn't see the potential for a design website.
"Marcus was like the mischievous ringmaster who brought the design world circus together," said Heatherwick. "Sixteen years ago, I remember him telling me he was leaving Icon and wanted my thoughts on setting up a website about design."
"I tried to dissuade him and told him he should do a physical magazine instead and not go online," he continued. "Very wisely, Marcus completely ignored my advice and went on to create the most successful design website in history. He was a tireless and unique talent. Such a loss."
"What he accomplished with Dezeen was a phenomenal contribution to architecture and design publishing and we are all the poorer for losing him," added UK architecture publication Architects' Journal (AJ) on Twitter.
Former AJ editor Christine Murray added, "Fairs was a giant".
At Dezeen and in his previous roles as founding editor of Icon magazine and a writer at Building Design, Fairs had a journalist drive that was "unmatchable".
"A natural journalist and an intuitive entrepreneur, he needed to be at the centre of things and his energy was unmatchable," said critic and curator Justin McGuirk.
"Marcus was a world, a star, an energy source for so many of us," wrote Beatrice Galilee on Twitter. "He made careers and changed lives. An incredibly talented, passionate journalist, editor and friend. He had my back, supported and was part of almost everything I did."
"Marcus was unique"
Through his writing, journalism and at Dezeen, Fairs aimed to broaden interest and understanding of design and present it clearly and concisely to a wide audience.
"As a journalist, Marcus was unique – he opened the doors to design and architecture and invited everyone inside," said Waugh Thistleton founder Andrew Waugh.
"What he achieved was extraordinarily important; he forever changed how we think, talk and write about design," he continued. "He challenged us to do better for each other and for our planet."
Along with his journalistic drive, numerous tributes commented on Fairs' ability to approach design with a sense of humour.
"He was a brilliant journalist, a champion of design, a pioneer, innovator, and entrepreneur," said Wallpaper* editor-in-chief Sarah Douglas.
"He was enthusiastic, curious, and above all great fun, and his presence in the design community will be sadly missed."
"Marcus always smiled, always had time, always listened, always supported us and other small firms, always loved a party, always loved a dance, always loved his friends, always talked about his amazing wife and kids, always talked about his dad – an inspiring change-maker, Marcus had this endearing sparkle of mischief in his eye which made everything possible!" added designers Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham.
Over the past two decades, Fairs was an ever-present figure in the design and architecture communities.
"Marcus has been around for all of my professional career and it's hard to imagine the world without him," wrote RA architecture head Vicky Richardson.
"I can't imagine going anywhere in the world without seeing your friendly face and curly hair pop in the mist of the dance floor or in the audience or on stage, or just everywhere," added designer Nelly Ben Hayoun.
Below are some of the hundreds of tributes, reflections and memories Dezeen has received following Fairs' death last week. We encourage others to leave their tributes in the comment section at the end of the piece.
"I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear the news of Marcus’ death. Not least as I have known him since we were both young and I always enjoyed our formal and our chance encounters.
"Marcus was an exceptional journalist with a passion for architecture and design, which he covered with elegance and flair. He had a bold vision to bring news to a much broader professional and public audience.
"Marcus leaves behind a powerful legacy in Dezeen: a world-renowned online editorial platform. He will be remembered for his enthusiasm and innovative approach to engaging the global design community."
"What a tremendous loss for the world of design and architecture. It is hard to imagine this world without him."
"Marcus was an indomitable pioneer, paving the way for a new kind of communication of design that has given our beloved discipline more visibility and articulation in the world. He was not ready to leave a legacy and we were certainly not ready to receive it, but indeed, a major legacy it is."
"I always admired Marcus and his passion. He will be missed."
"What a tragedy…my curly-haired friend of more than 20 years is gone. There are few people in the world with whom one can talk about mischief and serious design at the same time. Marcus was that and so much more: a caring friend, an unwavering defender of design, a contrarian and visionary, a sweet man I will miss forever."
"Marcus will be dearly, dearly missed. What a huge loss for us all, for the design industry around the world and all those he supported and encouraged. Marcus encouraged me greatly and I will always be thankful to have known such a leader and such an inspiration."
"Marcus was a visionary, a great friend to Urban Splash and the whole world of design. Such a loss."
"I remember when you visited me the first time in Z33, Hasselt, (Belgium), in 2010 and I asked you what will be the future of design and architecture journalism and you showed me your phone. And I understood in a split second that filming and broadcasting would become the next step for you and Dezeen.
"Each time we met, we discussed the evolution of media and technology and the role it played in the design world.
"You understood my frustration that designers were making things not for the real world but for Dezeen. Dezeen was part of the problem but also a platform of possibilities.
"Media like Dezeen were shaping the design world and the world. These conversations were not easy going but the friction between us was very productive.
"More than 10 years later we kept the conversation going. Two years ago in Luma Arles(France) and Venice we started to brainstorm how 15 years of Dezeen could be celebrated and with whom.
"And more important you emphasized how it should deal with the future. I hope we can realise some of these forward-looking and visionary ideas with your team."
"Marcus's influence on the design media landscape was immense. He worked with vision and flair to broaden news, understanding, and engagement with and about all aspects of architecture and design. He brought the global design community closer together and his loss will be felt keenly."
"Losing Marcus is utterly heart-breaking. For all of us from the worlds of architecture and design who counted him as a friend, who looked forward to seeing him about town or through his Facebook posts, who delighted in Dezeen’s insights and enthusiastic happenings, it feels like we’ve lost our Knight in Shining Armour. For his family and close colleagues, the void he’s left must feel unbearable.
"Through Dezeen, Marcus gave the world an intelligent and irresistible way to tap into design culture. He also gave us designers and architects a global platform. His way of disseminating, to the widest public audience, the value and joy of the design imagination was a hugely generous gift to us all. Thank you, Marcus!
"I will treasure when, at the start of the pandemic, Marcus invited me to do his Virtual Design Festival interview. The prospect was daunting. The VDF was a pioneering live, online format in response to that world-changing moment. Yet Marcus was so warm, relaxed, and easy to talk to. His genuine curiosity and interest in a meaningful conversation made the experience refreshing and a total pleasure.
"The world is a better place for the life and work of Marcus. We will carry his mission forward and remember his best moments."
"I am so deeply shocked by this awful news and incredibly saddened. Marcus was a pioneer for our industry but above all, a fantastic person and a friend to so many of us."
"We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear of Marcus’s passing. He was an exceptional journalist and editor who began his early career in architectural journalism working on Building Design and who also made a major contribution to Building as a pioneering features editor.
"We’ll remember him for his stream of exciting ideas, unrivalled networking abilities, energy, infectious enthusiasm and, of course, for Dezeen, which he turned into a major success through his tenacity, creativity, and dedication.
"Our colleague Marcus was always challenging, always tough, always edgy, but always smiling and laughing too. He brought an unrivalled dynamism to the group – and none more so than we were on our off-site trips abroad or when he played in goal for our five-a-side football team and was diving around like he was playing in a World Cup final. Marcus was not only competitive; he was a force for good for the design community. Marcus will be sorely missed."
"Marcus and I had a unique connection, which was more than design, we had a mutual passion for music. He had a huge bank of diverse and amazing songs he’d been writing over the years, and I am grateful that we had the honour of jamming together (Marcus was also a very accomplished guitarist and sang... in his own distinctive style — Bowie would have been proud!) in a trio with Tom Dixon on bass, and had a vision of recording more and live shows, as a concept band.
"It’s extremely sad that we won’t get to record some of those beautiful tracks with our special friend.
"He was one of my purest advocates and wonderfully supportive, a genuine and special human being, funny, sincere, crazy, driven and understated, a true friend, who I will miss dearly."
"So sad to hear this news. Marcus Fairs was always interested in our changing world and interesting in his response. He was fun to be around and always right at the centre of our community, for so many years."
"Marcus was a champion of our community and the very special glue that brought and held us together."
"I remember so well spending an incredible Salone with him, 2003 or 2004 I think. It was a proper rampage, peak Bar Basso. I was working with Nokia Design at the time, and had just launched the Nokia 7600 (that funny teardrop one). It was an important product, their first 3G phone. A couple of months prior, just after launch, Marcus had written a less than flattering review of it in Icon, saying it was too strange to text with because of the split keyboard. Then, on my first night in Milan that year, I spotted Marcus at an event, furiously and happily texting away with two hands, using a familiar product – my 7600. I tapped him on the shoulder, and before I could say anything, he said 'It's bloody brilliant once you get used to it!' No shit Sherlock. We were inseparable that Salone, and friends ever since."
"There are some people whose absence you know will leave a gaping hole in the worlds, and among the people, in which they circulated. Marcus is one of them, and I am one of the many who will sorely miss him."
"I’ve never known someone quite like Marcus, he could really light up a room. A pioneer in the media landscape and the design industry, he has created an enviable legacy and it will not be the same without him."
Claesson Koivisto Rune
"We have so many fond memories of Marcus trough all these years. Typically, from bumping into him anywhere and everywhere in the world where there was some design event happening. He made us feel like extended family, still always with his journalistic integrity intact."
"During a random conversation outside Superstudio one Salone week, Marcus handed me this little sticker simply and obscurely printed: ‘Dezeen’. The sticker is still on my favourite suitcase."
"In another of those unexpected but expected bump-ins in Milan Marcus spoke vividly about a tree he’d just planted in his yard. This seemingly insignificant memory was the first thing that sprung to mind when the incredibly sad news came to me."
"I see Marcus before me when we were all dancing at his 50th anniversary party at the SoHo House. He was gleaming, so happy among his friends."
"I am struggling to write this, as I try to process the shock of the news that we have lost Marcus Fairs. Not only have we lost a dear and joyous friend, a brilliant, fiercely intelligent mind, whose impact on our perception and understanding of design, architecture and innovation was immeasurable, but we have also lost someone who I sensed was just embarking on a new chapter of profoundly important work: I grieve the loss of a brilliant friend and colleague, and I grieve the loss of all that he was still set to accomplish.
"One of the most striking things about Marcus was his endless, infectious, joyous curiosity: In the root sense of curiosity: to care. He cared profoundly about the planet and the role that architecture, design and innovation could play in attuning humans to the biosphere. He cared at every scale from expansively global to precisely local: he cared about huge innovations in global systems thinking as well as precise minute innovation in the structure of a door handle. His mind had an unlimited capacity for expansive imagination as well as an incisive aptitude for precision on detail and action.
"In a parallel universe Marcus might have been the lead singer in a band: he channeled energy and ideas the way that singers do in a stadium of hundreds of thousands. Something in Marcus must have told him that his reach and impact would be far greater by bringing his rockstar brilliance to the world of design, and with immense skill, foresight and dedication, he and his incredibly talented partner Rupinder Bhogal transformed our perception of the convergence of architecture, design, innovation and culture through their phenomenally successful design platform Dezeen.
"Marcus had a rare combination of energetic power that propelled ideas around the planet, and a lack of ego that meant he was always genuinely listening to what his interviewee was about to say, rather than preparing what he might ask next. After at least 10,000 hours of listening, analysis and elucidation, exploring the broadest range of design practitioners and innovators, Marcus’s breadth and depth of knowledge was unique and is irreplaceable. He had amassed a detailed understanding of a vast range of design approaches to the climate crisis and was just getting started on his third act, the propulsion of 'the great turning' of human consciousness towards the biosphere. In his memory and his extraordinary spirit, I know that I and all those who valued Marcus will want to expand our efforts and to continue to contribute all we can to the innovative design work in response to the climate crisis that he would have propagated with such ferocious energy."
"Always with his ears to the ground, with a good nose, great taste, precise voice, wide open eyes and a massive brain and huge heart, he was always present.
"We are left with a massive Marcus-shaped hole in our design universe."
"I first met Marcus twenty years ago, just after he launched Icon. He was a brilliant journalist, a champion of design, a pioneer, innovator, and entrepreneur. He was enthusiastic, curious, and above all great fun, and his presence in the design community will be sadly missed."
Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein
"Marcus always smiled, always had time, always listened, always supported us and other small firms, always loved a party, always loved a dance, always loved his friends, always talked about his amazing wife and kids, always talked about his dad – an inspiring change maker, Marcus had this endearing sparkle of mischief in his eye which made everything possible!
"Marcus changed an industry, changed the world, changed what all our staff do every morning when they start up their computers, and changed the way we all look at design and architecture around the globe. He was the first person to write about PechaKucha and bring it to London at the ICA.
"The world has lost him far too early… and we'll miss him dearly."
"I am stricken and speechless. How can I even live without knowing you are no longer in the world? How can I never hear your beautiful broken voice again? Marcus, you were my guardian and your innate curiosity kept us going, always curious about new adventures, challenging my ideas, making all of us express ourselves with greater clarity. You are a tender and attentive human, never cynical, gathering us around you as a great extended family. Thank you for all you achieved."
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my good friend Marcus, a creative visionary who I had the great pleasure of knowing personally.
"His confidence, in all forms, carries the evolving agency of content — and all content has, within its trajectory, the performance of form. Dezeen inspires and impacts millions of fellow creatives and, through Marcus’ insistence in times of disconnectedness, has given rise to a certain kind of hyper-local design-accountability. Architects and designers around the world will remember Marcus as the one who brought the global design community closer together.
"Marcus, your achievements leave us with progress, humanity and realness."
"His life was shorter than we all would have wanted, but his imprint and contribution to creativity, design and architecture will live on in our fond memories."
Eva Franch i Gilabert
"Marcus was the builder of a human edifice that cared about architecture, design, and the world; above all he cared about the human stories behind the headlines. In our last walking meeting before I left London, I took him for a little excursion to the British Library where we discussed gender in the exhibition 'The fight for women's rights' and the long road ahead of us in building a fair culture in architecture for everyone. After that we went to the Hardy Tree, an ash tree behind Saint Pancras train station surrounded by a chaotic even if radial configuration of hundreds of weathered gravestones. He had never been and loved it. We talked about life, and death, the collectives that we are and that we create throughout our lifetimes; he created a tree, and in some way we are all in that tree with him."
"Marcus contributed an enormous amount to the worlds of architecture and design. His journalistic instincts led him to the heart of stories and his sharp perception always drew out the essence of his subject, resulting in several decades of astute journalism. His ability to call out bullshit occasionally landed him in trouble but his diplomacy and good humour would usually steer him out of deep waters. He was driven by the thrill of a new story and managed to embed himself within the heart of our industry to ensure that. He was modest about his business skills but he understood his own value and carried his brand Dezeen to impressive heights through hard work, vision and belief.
"Generous with his observations and advice, Marcus would often take his colleagues under his wing and nurture those with promise. There are many individuals grateful for that trust and endorsement. Not always the easiest to work with, he nevertheless had so much more to give and so many more people to invite on his journey. And behind the public Marcus was a human capable of being quiet, shy and vulnerable, often in the company of his friends and family. His time with us has been cut tragically short yet his influence, intellect, wit and warmth will be carried for a long time by those of us who had the good fortune of being involved in his life. He will be missed by so many."
"I am deeply saddened to hear of Marcus Fairs' sudden and premature death. A pioneering and visionary journalist, Marcus was instrumental in setting a new direction of architectural journalism in the UK.
"At Dezeen – which Marcus started from his home in 2006 – he created a global platform for architecture and design, raising the profile of creative industries the world over. An astute journalist and insightful commentator, Marcus shone a spotlight on many young architects and designers and has been instrumental in demonstrating how good design can make a positive contribution to the world around us.
"His immeasurable contributions to the creative industry will forever be part of Marcus’s immense legacy. He will be sorely missed by us all but never forgotten, as his spirit will live on in the indomitable and unsurpassed Dezeen website."
"Marcus, we’ve just met at the Serpentine Pavilion opening last month, I could not believe this. Marcus, I have been looking forward to seeing you again at the jury session of Dezeen Award this autumn, so sad. I remember you were always clam, a bit shy, honest, and passionate for architecture. You will be in my memory forever. Thank you, Marcus."
Adam Nathaniel Furman
"Marcus was so huge, he was like the Zaha of Architectural publishing, a giant, passionate, brilliant figure full of verve and invention, wit, tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit, so many qualities lacking in the rest of the industry.
"He brought architecture and design into the 21st century, and ensured that new generations were given a platform to share their ideas and creations, in a way that was so refreshing compared to the dour gatekeeping of previous incarnations of publishing in the profession.
"He ran a hugely successful enterprise that, although it was the most visited design site in the world, was run like a nimble little Indy publisher, testing out new approaches and ideas constantly in a way that left the competitors in the dust.
"He will be hugely missed, and I very much hope his can-do, go-getting, bright spirit will live on in those many people he inspired."
"Marcus Fairs was a world, a star, an energy source for so many of us. He made careers and changed lives. An incredibly talented, passionate journalist, editor and friend. He had my back, supported and was part of almost everything I did. What will we do now? I’m heartbroken."
"It is with tremendous sadness that I learned the passing away of Marcus, a dear friend and founder, editor in chief of Dezeen. His memory will persist with this platform and its beautiful team. Marcus had not only brought up a colored voice for design with a cross-disciplinary and diverse reach, but he was always keen on making dezeen an open platform for debate on design and architecture.
"He had left us too suddenly and too soon, yet again his spirit will remain with the melodies he recently composed to play « Bittersweet » tones to our ears. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the Dezeen family. may your soul rest in peace dearest Marcus."
"Absolutely shocked and devastated to hear this awful news. My condolences to his family and all at Dezeen. I've known Marcus since he was a reporter on Building Design magazine, saw him rise to become editor of Icon and then – his amazing achievement and legacy – setting up Dezeen and making it the enormous success that it is. Thanks for all the articles you've published about our work, the opinion pieces you commissioned and the good laughs on various occasions. RIP Marcus."
"The sad and shocking loss of one of the design world's most curious and inspirational figures - we will always be grateful for his belief and support of emerging ideas."
"Marcus was an exceptional force within the industry, often lightyears ahead of his peers in constantly rethinking the fundamentals of architectural journalism, criticism and public discourse. He was a shrewd and prolific figure who will be deeply missed.
"In founding his most ambitious publishing project Dezeen in 2006, Marcus correctly judged, with incredible acumen and foresight, the shape journalism would take in the 21st century. Many publishers are still struggling to catch up with the moves Marcus made nearly two decades ago.
"He had an extremely quick sense for news, sometimes breaking big stories off the back of noticing a passing remark at an event or online. While Dezeen is best known for its unrivalled visual coverage of contemporary design, Marcus also made it an inclusive space for vigorous debate platforming all sides of any issue including under-represented voices.
"Marcus was also a stalwart and supportive champion of our built environment charity, Open City. At the start of the UK’s first national lockdown in March 2020 he met with me in person in an open air Dalston car park to ask how Dezeen could help us get through the pandemic. With his blessing, Dezeen went on to support our work in various ways including by prominently featuring the graduation work of the black, brown and working-class teenagers who take part in Open City’s Accelerate Programme each year. In doing so he gave those young underrepresented Londoners a spotlight and a confidence boost they are often denied – a gesture which will have certainly changed lives for the better."
Nelly Ben Hayoun
"Marcus, my friend. I can't imagine going anywhere in the world without seeing your friendly face and curly hair pop in the mist of the dance floor or in the audience or on stage, or just everywhere.
"From seeing you singing 'happy birthday' to my sister in Vilnius and rounding up the full crowd for her to 'celebrate her proper', to going at massive speed into a micro car with complete strangers to a nightclub in cape town during Design Indaba, to our life during covid and us discussing 'sports and design' (amongst all things during Covid... and you thought this was a 'great idea') whilst getting Yinka Ilori jogging on zoom (hahaha), or when I tried to steal (unsuccessfully) a Dezeen award when we were filming the Dezeen awards with Lionheart – I left with a hand sanitizer (but no awards!).
"We have gone through so many wild adventures – all of which were made better by you. Your huge huge massive caring heart, unparalleled generosity, bright brain, and funny young, always curious spirit.
"You have cared for all of us, always, in my case for more than a good decade. You made sure that creative 'weirdos' like me and so many others always had a platform to talk, to express themselves.
"You always listened and connected disciplines in the most unique ways and you had never fear. In that and in everything – everything – that made you, your kindness and genius, you always have been, are, and will continue to be an example to follow.
"I can’t thank you enough for everything you have supported, for everyone you have supported with their careers, life choices – you were here also for that. I am thinking about your wife and family, all your friends, and the whole team at Dezeen. Marcus, I do hope the cosmos has planned a wormhole for us to meet you again, for us to go for a drink to laugh about all the times together, as I can't imagine a future without you around in some place on this Earth."
"Very sad to hear the news that Dezeen founder Marcus Fairs died last week. He was an insightful, charismatic, visionary who also happened to be very charming. I was lucky enough to be interviewed by him twice over the last year. He will be much missed."
"It's heartbreaking to hear this tragic news. Marcus was like the mischievous ringmaster who brought the design world circus together. Sixteen years ago, I remember him telling me he was leaving Icon and wanted my thoughts on setting up a website about design. I tried to dissuade him and told him he should do a physical magazine instead and not go online. Very wisely, Marcus completely ignored my advice and went on to create the most successful design website in history. He was a tireless and unique talent. Such a loss."
"So very sad to hear this news. It was always an absolute pleasure to meet or bump into Marcus. Through his Dezeen publication and awards, I have learnt so much about what is beautiful and exciting in the world, through their unique lens.
"I personally have always felt empowered from his belief and support of projects over the years and I’m sure thousands of others have too. Just to know Marcus loved what you’re doing made up for hundreds who didn’t get it or who weren’t willing to stick their neck out for you.
"I hope his legacy continues to inspire many thousands more people."
"I'm deeply saddened to hear the news of Marcus passing. Marcus was a true pioneer and inspiration and a force of nature who changed our industry. He made such an important contribution to design and creativity with his genius platform reaching millions of people. My thoughts are with his family and loved ones."
"Adding my voice to the many today mourning the horrible loss of Marcus Fairs, a trailblazing architectural journalist. He changed the face of architectural publishing and – through Dezeen and Icon before that – commissioned lots of new writers. He was great fun too."
"Marcus Fairs was a man with so much talent, passion and genuine care. He was an individual who had so much talent, creativity, influence in and humility with everyone he came in contact with. Calm, sensible, and had a great sense of humour – Marcus was someone who was always there for you and incredibly genuine and reliable.
"I still remember him telling me about his early years where he was forced to create a magazine online because he started so young, he didn't have the funds to print; only to take over the digital sphere of the design world leading with his ever-growing empire. I have no words for the pain and loss I feel for this incredible soul who's changed me and everyone he's touched through Dezeen. The last time we spoke he played me a song he wrote and recorded and of course it was brilliant. He had plans to pursue a career in music next.
"I loved how he never stopped and was always after the next thing and always magically making it happen. I am so lucky I had the time allotted in this world to have known such a great man who believed in me as a young designer and supported me through my most critical years, especially the support female professionals. I'm sorry I will never share a stage with marcus anymore, but rest in peace one day we'll be on the same stage again....."
"I’m extremely saddened and shocked by the news that Marcus Fairs has passed away. My deepest heartfelt condolences go to his family and everyone at Dezeen.
"Marcus was hugely supporting of our work from the very beginning and I feel fortunate to have counted him amongst my friends. His positive and supportive outlook coupled with a desire for change had a huge impact on our thinking and trajectory. For nearly 15 years – ever since we met at 100% Design in London where he effectively ‘discovered' me soon after I graduated – he has been a part of our world. Only last night I was talking with my partner about catching up with Marcus soon.
"Rest in peace Marcus. You worked so hard to make our industry what it is today and you leave a huge legacy behind. I’ll miss you."
"With great sadness I have found out that my dear friend Marcus Fairs unexpectedly passed away. My condolences goes to his family and loved ones. Marcus was the founder of one of the most important online magazines @dezeen He gave us all a platform. He was of great influence a it was always nice to hang out with him. We shared the passion for making the world a better and more sustainable place through design."
"Thank you for always showing me love I will never forget our joyful memories and the support you always showed me."
"It's such sad news. Marcus was an amazing force in the design world. First with Icon where he upended the staid world of design in ways that showed how different, imaginative and intelligent things could be. He gave a generation of designers a platform with a kind of post Blueprint irreverent attitude.
"Then with Dezeen, where he forged a new way for design to be shown, broadcast and discussed. His energy and vision transformed design profoundly. By connecting, introducing, supporting and championing things and people, Marcus gave us all a community and audience. He made design feel like it had a mission, made it seem like there could be optimism and possibility.
"London’s design culture especially owes him so much for repeatedly injecting it with excitement, for making it a place where ideas and creativity could (or rather should) be present. Marcus raised the bar by setting us all a challenge to be more interesting, more creative, more beautiful.
"Thank you Marcus for all the support you gave me, for always taking a punt on bizarre ideas for opinion pieces. Thanks for letting me write about design through apparently strange starting points - Pizzas, celebrity cookware, Sex and the City, Raul Moat, Resident Evil and many more (though I still think you should have commissioned that review of the 2003 FA cup final!)"
"This is a tremendous shock and loss leaving a massive hole in all our lives: he was one of a kind; super generous and helped me and my generation to believe we, like him, could change the world with kindness. I shall miss him dearly."
"The world without our enigmatic, bold, charming and fun Marcus is a very different world – and will take a huge amount of adjustment for us all."
"I first met Marcus when he was a young reporter starting out at Building Design.
"He was always someone who pushed the boundaries. His natural charm often encouraged me to speak more freely than I should have done. After one interview, Marcus published something that was indiscreet and clearly not intended for public consumption. I was furious and vowed never to speak to him again. The next morning he sent me a huge bunch of flowers with an apology.
"For his inaugural edition of Icon Magazine in April 2003, Marcus chose Selfridges Birmingham as the cover image. Jan and I were thrilled, it marked a special moment for us.
"When he told me about his plans for Dezeen, I honestly didn’t believe it would work. How wrong I was.
"We need disruptors like Marcus to move the game on. He has certainly done that. I will miss him."
Lonny and Nadine, AtelierNL
"Dear Marcus, you are one of a kind; sparkling, joyful, and full of spirit.
"As ambassadors in 2017, we became close in a very short time; travelling from venue to venue, sharing meals and having drinks. We had so much fun together and we will always love the beautiful chats we had. Thank you for believing in the work of Atelier NL. We are very grateful for designing the very first Dezeen Award and we will never forget how warm-hearted and inspiring you were.
"We will always remember getting lost in Rotterdam because we just couldn't stop talking & dancing until the morning during the award party — we definitely pulled some cool moves there! We will miss you."
"I just can’t believe Marcus has passed away, incredible for a man with his energy and power. Marcus has been of great importance to designers and architects of all backgrounds. He created a truly meaningful platform and he showed immense empathy, enthusiasm and love for architecture. I remember and cherish the good times we had with Lonny van Ryswyck and Nadine Sterk when we all were ambassadors for the Dutch Design Week in 2017. And all moments after this. His energy, his drive, his love for provocative manifestos is what I remember and love from Marcus."
"Marcus was warm, fun and interested. His platform completely changed the way we view design, from print to online. His coverage of my work gave me an early start in my career. And for this I’ll eternally be grateful. He leaves behind a lovely family at such a young age. This is a tragedy."
"Marcus was such a caring, sincere, human being. Always seeking for the truth, always pushing for actual solutions to help the planet through design.
"He changed our world, he made design approachable, understandable and helpful, and I miss him already. My thoughts are with his equally wonderful family and with the Dezeen team."
"It's exactly twenty years since Marcus and I first started working together. The media landscape has changed immeasurably since then, and Marcus was at the forefront of those changes.
"A natural journalist and an intuitive entrepreneur, he needed to be at the centre of things and his energy was unmatchable. He gave me my break when he launched Icon magazine, and those remain vivid years. It’s hard to imagine that I won’t be bumping into him at events anymore or hearing about his ambitious plans or enjoying a mischievous laugh with him. I’ll miss him, and the design world is poorer without him."
"Marcus was generous, fun, inclusive and a wonderful colleague and friend. Heart-breaking loss for his family, the Dezeen family and the entire industry. Marcus was also brave."
"I met Marcus Fairs at the Stirling Prize at Camden’s Roundhouse in 2007. Like many people, I knew of him before first shaking his hand.
"At the time, among aspiring design writers and architecture critics, Fairs was a giant. Having launched Icon in 2003, the international design and architecture magazine, he’d started up his digital architecture magazine Dezeen in November 2006.
"To put that in perspective, the iPhone launched in January 2007. (Apple would later use Dezeen in the official launch of the iPhone 5 in 2012). At the time, the internet was still irritatingly slow and very bad at rendering photography.
"I had only recently joined the Architects’ Journal as an upstart reviews editor, crossing into architecture from fashion and arts journalism. The AJ’s website at the time was barely functional. And for all the things it was, the AJ was not cool. I had been told that I needed to meet Marcus, because he was the only person doing anything interesting. I worked up the nerve, walked over and shook his hand.
"If Fairs was a pioneer in digital media – creating sticky and scroll-worthy parades of images long before Instagram (2010) – he was considered a dangerous radical in architectural publishing. His content was free. It was online. It was beautiful. There was a lot of it - making it 'easier' to get published.
"Fairs was seen by some as a threat – a horseman of the print apocalypse. But really he was democratising access to architectural journalism and publishing. Getting your building published was – and is – considered essential to becoming an "important" architect. But this privilege was reserved for the very few. Print publishing was closely guarded by the editorial gatekeepers of magazines and national newspaper critics for more than a hundred years. Magazine editors only published a tiny number of projects in print per year, and the architecture often conforms to a particular editor's narrow band of taste. The internet was a new world, and Dezeen was its lovechild. Fairs expanded the definition of design and architecture by publishing lots of it, at all scales, and all styles. As long as it was interesting, competent and beautifully photographed, up it went. Initially, the criticism was not in the journalism, but in the comments – Fairs was also a pioneer of community-led content creation. As for design, Dezeen is still exploding definitions and artificial barriers, as one of the first publications to cover architecture NFTs.
"If Fairs' reputation was that of an iconoclast, on the party and media circuit, he was anything but. He was fun at parties and good company: playful, curious and open-minded. At the press and journalism awards, he was quick with congratulations and praise. We shared a strong belief in the importance of independent journalism, a pride in having kept media alive, a belief in gender equality and campaigning, and the desire to shake things up, keep growing and evolving.
"When I left the Architects’ Journal and The Architectural Review, Fairs was one of the first people to get in touch and take me out for breakfast, to discuss next steps. Having lost my platform, he offered my writing a home, commissioning several columns. He was kind and encouraging. He listened to my ideas for a new kind of publication and as a founder-editor offered his advice along the way, to answer any questions or doubts. His generosity meant a great deal to me. The success story of Dezeen remains an inspiration."
"I've lost a friend, collaborator, confidant, conspirator and supporter... as have all of you at Dezeen. I've known Marcus for just short of two decades and we’ve been in a mutual support society of our own since and I will miss him desperately.
"I've been talking to our mutual friends over the last days. We are all in a state of shock - but, we all want to contribute to honouring and celebrating Marcus’ life and his Herculean contribution to design, culture, journalism and all our lives. His memory and impact will live on with all of us."
"Ciao Marcus, we will miss you so much! You were tough and determined, you changed the world of design as it was known, you created debates, positions, different visions, but always and in any case you managed all of this with irony and lightness.
"The global design community is now more alone without your voice. I am grateful to you, I think we are all grateful to you for what you have done and for the legacy you have left us. I will miss sooo much our chat, drinks, interviews but mostly to meet you somewhere in our world."
Jay Osgerby and Edward Barber
"Marcus wasn't like most journalists in our scene, the scene that celebrates itself. He was a critic, a vociferous one – a good one. He didn't care for the status that designers and architects enjoy, even though he helped many get there. His joyful cynicism, came from the unassailable fact that he was smarter than most, quick-witted and entrepreneurial.
We spent a lot of time together over the last 25 years. He was a constant. From bar crawls in the early days to mentoring each other through the trials of growing businesses, he was always happy to be open and honest.
Marcus was a huge character in the design world and will be hugely missed by us all."
"Marcus was the great entrepreneur and enthusiast in online design and architecture media, known worldwide. Brutally unfair that he should no longer be here. We're all stricken for his family."
"Less than a month ago, Marcus and I were having a public conversation at Milan Design Week, talking about the future of design. Indeed, over the last two decades, few people have been able to shape the future of our profession like Marcus did. And yet, today’s incredibly sad news also comes with the realization of how elusive it is to think, and design, the future. RIP, Marcus – you will be dearly missed!"
"Marcus has been around for all of my professional career and it’s hard to imagine the world without him. I realised today that he was a year older than me, but I always thought he was younger…he had such energy! We first met when we worked for magazines at the publishing company the Builder Group in about 1998: he was on Building magazine and I was at RIBA Journal. He was incredibly driven and ambitious even then.
"He became founding editor of Icon in 2003 and the following year I began as editor of Blueprint. The two magazines were in competition, and so we were friendly rivals (and sometimes not so friendly). We had completely different ideas and approaches, but I always admired how direct Marcus was and that he usually got the story first. He knew everyone in design and architecture, and had an amazing grasp of what was coming next. When he left Icon to set up an online magazine I must admit I never thought it would work. But Marcus had a visionary outlook and was several steps ahead of everyone else.
"I met up with him most recently in 2019 to discuss China, a place we both had a great interest in. He was keen to expand the reach of Dezeen, and he could see through the negativity and prejudice that affects many people’s ideas about Chinese designers.
"I was looking forward to seeing Marcus at the RA Annual Architecture Lecture later this month, which Dezeen has generously supported for several years now. My predecessor at the RA, Kate Goodwin, has fond memories of him at the dinners that used to follow the lecture, in pre-pandemic days.
Over the years I’ve had lovely chats with Marcus’s wife, Rupinder, who seemed so gentle and quiet in comparison to Marcus who was always be bounding around, never able to keep still. My heart goes out to her and their children, and to everyone who was close to Marcus at Dezeen."
"Heartbreaking! Thank you Marcus, I’ll always remember you for your amazing contribution to the design world, but even more for connecting great people around the world. Adios amigo!Lots of love to your family and all of the Dezeen team."
"He was bold and that made him beautiful."
"Marcus has always been such a champion of design and we count it an utmost privilege to have known and worked with him over the many years which he grew Dezeen into what it is today – I am certain it will prove to be a lasting legacy which will continue to positively shape the design world for many years to come."
"I also fondly recall our meetings with Marcus in Singapore as well as London, from the insightful panel discussions, off-the-cuff video interviews to the lively debates during the award jury discussions, Marcus truly helped us all elevate the state of design as we know it. He will always be remembered and missed dearly."
"Marcus was a uniquely creative and focused person who had a deep passion for design and media. By creating Dezeen, Marcus almost single-handedly elevated the entire design industry to a new global platform. He, more than almost anybody else of his generation, helped move the design conversation in the UK and globally into the mainstream narrative. That is quite some legacy, and his loss will be deeply felt by many in our industry."
"Marcus Fairs was a real pioneer, and Dezeen has been like a lighthouse, his vision will be carried on by his wonderful tribe. He will be missed."
"It is not overblown to say that Marcus changed the face of architecture and design discourse through the founding of Dezeen, opening up what was once a privileged space to a much wider audience. His legacy is completely established, but we all know he had other plans and ideas to deliver, and for this and much more Marcus will be greatly missed."
"Marcus was a truly thoughtful, brilliant and genuine human being that has done more to help disrupt the design community than anyone. Personally, we shared our big passion for music, and most people did probably not know that Marcus was a brilliant musician and have been writing beautiful songs for quite some time. Together with Tom Dixon and Rosey Chan we prepared to perform his amazing music, which should be shared with the world."
"I was shocked and saddened to wake up to the news that Marcus Fairs has passed away today. He gave me my first in-house journalism job. I was a design reporter for Dezeen for almost two years and I learned so much — we even talked about him buying Confessions of a Design Geek at one stage! He invited me to head up the sustainability judging panel for the Dezeen Awards and when he found out what a fan girl of fellow judge Gary Hustwit I was, he engineered a joint interview so I could meet him (I mean, he also outed me as a fan girl, so…!).
"He introduced me to the gorgeous folk at Design Hotels for whom I chaired a panel event in Crete in May — a few of us got chatting about how we had been connected and the answer was always the same — Marcus. I’ll be honest, I felt pretty intimidated by him a lot of the time, but I can’t think of many people who have had such an impact on the lives and careers of so many in our industry."
"Devastated and shocked to learn of the unexpected death of Marcus Fairs. Talented, creative, tough and driven, he created Dezeen, a global success story. On behalf of INGMedia, we send our deepest sympathies to his family and colleagues."
"Marcus was a huge inspiration to me as well as a valued friend. Before we got to know each other, I had admired his editorship of Icon Magazine from afar. His achievements in subsequently building Dezeen from literally nothing to the biggest, most popular design website in the world, and a thriving business to boot, were nothing short of phenomenal.
"I thoroughly enjoyed his company on the all-too-rare occasions we met. He was witty, erudite, and possessed that pre-requisite of any great journalist – a curious and inquisitive mind.
"His energy and passion for Dezeen, and the design world it encapsulated, were endless. I always remember his Insta bio which used to read something along the lines of 'Design editor but interested in everything' as I think that summed him up. I know how deeply he loved his family and colleagues, and all of us at Sleeper are heartbroken for their loss.
Ben Van Berkel
"I am truly shocked and devastated by this extremely sad news. I considered Marcus a friend and colleague, but most of all, a visionary. He inspired and influenced so many people in so many ways. With Dezeen, he re-defined the contemporary design media for all of us. His loss will be felt by all those who knew him, or admired him from afar. It was a complete privilege to have known Marcus. His influence will continue to loom large on all of us. What an incredibly sad day."
"Terribly sad, shocking news. Marcus changed online publishing as we know it and was always a mischievous, provocative presence in the design world."
"As a journalist, Marcus was unique – he opened the doors to design and architecture and invited everyone inside. What he achieved was extraordinarily important; he forever changed how we think, talk and write about design. He challenged us to do better for each other and for our planet. He was always inquisitive, hungry for news and busting myths, and he was never nervous about ruffling a few feathers but always did so with great charm and a gorgeous smile. I’ll always miss him."
"Please accept my sincere sympathies to everyone that worked with him. His legacy is huge; we should all be thankful for that."
"Too sudden and really shocking. We just had this talk about social housing just a few days ago. Marcus is a respectful close friend for a long time. This friendship goes back for years. He is an insightful and brilliant person. His genuine, pure and strong enthusiasm for architecture, and the creation of Dezeen is significant to this world. It marked and pushed the changes on architecture nowadays."
"Marcus was an innovator, one step ahead on the frontline of creative communication. Professionally I will remember him for building a new demographic, creating an essential international platform for us all to plug into – without this being a citizen of the world would not have transcended in the way that it has. As a friend you were a great supporter and working together was our great pleasure and I will miss you."
"What shocking news. We are so very sorry to hear of Marcus’ passing – I can hardly imagine the field without his voice and influence. From all of us at 3XN, we wanted to pass on our sincerest condolences to the team at Dezeen, and to his family in particular. Words never seem to be enough in these situations, so we will simply say that our thoughts are with you all."
"A personal addition from Kim, who I just spoke with on the phone:
"It’s no stretch to say that’s Marcus’ influence and eye has been a major shaping influence for architecture in the 16 years since it was founded. Our field is made stronger by discourse and our willingness to share our work and ideas with each other. Dezeen was built upon these principles, and an uncompromising focus on quality in reporting that has changed the way we all work for the better.
"We are poorer for his loss and owe it to his memory to continue to push for quality and generosity in architectural discourse and journalism."
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