American architect Michael Graves died on Thursday at his home in Princeton, NJ. He was 80. A statement by his firm, Michael Graves Architecture & Design, cited reason for death as natural causes. Graves’ architectural work exemplified postmodernism, and he went on to design housewares and establish his own school, the Michael Graves School of Architecture at Kean University in New Jersey. He designed over 350 buildings internationally during his lifetime.
Michael Graves in 1999. Photo by Fred R. Conrad for The New York Times.
Before developing a reputation as one of the most prolific architects of the latter-20th century, Graves was part of the New York Five, the group of architects who helped redefine modernism in the 1970s, also known as the Whites. Among his more celebrated buildings are healthcare company Humana’s Louisville, KY headquarters and the Portland Municipal Building in Oregon, which became iconic of the American postmodernist movement. Graves founded his Princeton firm in 1964 and designed office buildings, resorts, retail stores, hospitals, monuments and university buildings, including The Hague’s Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, the campus master plan for Rice University in Houston, and Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resort.
The Humera building, left. The Portland Municipal Building, middle. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, right.
The Swan and Dolphin Resort, Walt Disney World.
Despite his architectural prowess Graves earned his reputation for the over, 2,000 consumer products he designed for companies such as Target, Alessi, Steuben and Disney. He received the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 1999 and the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) gold medal in 2000. AIA’s Eugene C. Hopkins identified Graves’ utilitarian direction saying he “brought quality designed products within reach of everyone in the country.”
Graves became paralyzed from the waist down due to a spinal cord infection in 2003, and thus confined to a wheelchair. Following this, he developed a reputation as an internationally recognized advocate of healthcare design. Along with using color in hospitals, Graves designed homes for people with disabilities and for the Wounded Warrior Project, and products specifically for the use by people with disabilities and lessened abilities such as bathtub handles, heating pads and a wheelchair. This work caused President Barak Obama to name Graves to the United States Access Board in 2013.
Graves was born in 1934 in Indianapolis and studied architecture at the University of Cincinnati and Harvard University. On top of his public practice, he taught for four decades at Princeton University.
In a statement, the Michael Graves Architecture & Design firm said it “will continue to honor Michael’s humanistic design philosophy through our commitment to creating unique design solutions that transform people’s lives.”
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