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Architect Michael Graves Dies

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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American architect Michael Graves, regarded as a champion of postmodernism and product design, died Thursday (March 12) in his home in Princeton, NJ. He was 80.

Mr. Graves’ portfolio ranged from buildings decorated with an abundance of pattern and color to signature household items for Target and other retailers.

Michael Graves
Michael Graves Architecture & Design

Michael Graves' humanistic design philosophy had the power to transform lives, according to his firm. The architect and product designer died Thursday (March 11) of natural causes.

He and his Princeton-based firm, Michael Graves Architecture & Design, designed 400 buildings worldwide and 2,000 products. Moreover, he and his firm have received over 200 awards for design excellence, according to a biography.

From Teapots to Tall Buildings

Among his most notable and recognized projects were the Humana Building, a 26-story skyscraper in Louisville, KY, and The Portland Building, a 15-story municipal office building in Portland, OR.  

His reinvention of household items included the “whistling bird” kettle that he designed for the Italian firm Alessi in 1985. More than two million kettles have been sold to date, according to The Telegraph.

Mr. Graves suffered a severe infection in 2003 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. As a result, he designed wheelchairs and gadgets for the disabled and elderly.

‘Extraordinary Designer’

Mr. Graves was born in July 9, 1934, in Indianapolis, IN, and studied architecture at the University of Cincinnati and Harvard University.

Portland Building
Steve Morgan / CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the champions of postmodernism, Architect Michael Graves rejected modernism, employing color, pattern, and playful design. His work included the Portland Building in Portland, OR, a controversial design.

In 1962, he began teaching at Princeton University’s School of Architecture and founded his own practice two years later.

His design firm released the following statement on his passing.

“Since founding the firm in 1964, Michael transformed the role of architects and designers, and even the place of design in our everyday lives.

Humana Building
Angry Aspie / Wikimedia Commons

The Humana Building, a 26-story skyscraper in Louisville, KY, is one of the architect's most noted accomplishments.

“For those of us who had the opportunity to work closely with Michael, we knew him as an extraordinary designer, teacher, mentor and friend.

“For the countless students that he taught for more than 40 years, Michael was an inspiring professor who encouraged everyone to find their unique design voice.”

Memorial Fund, Service

Memorial contributions may be made to Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Omaha, NE—a project Mr. Graves was most passionate about, according to his firm. The donations for Mr. Graves will be used to help build the hospital that he designed.

Click here to learn more about the project.

A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for April 12 at Princeton University.


Tagged categories: Aesthetics; Architectural history; Architecture; Design; Obituaries; Personnel

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