Michael Graves died today in Princeton, N.J. One of the most famous U.S. designers of his generation, and a pioneer of architectural Postmodernism, Graves was born in Indianapolis, earned his bachelor of science in architecture from the University of Cincinnati, and continued his studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His eponymous firm, which he founded in 1964, has offices in both Princeton and New York City.
Graves first came to public attention via the book Five Architects (Oxford University Press, 1975), which featured the so-called New York Five, a group of similarly minded architects that also included the late John Hejduk, the late Charles Gwathmey, Peter Eisenman, FAIA, and Richard Meier, FAIA. All five architects went on to prestigious academic and professional careers. Graves received the AIA Gold Medal in 2001, and the 2012 Richard H. Driehaus Prize. He also taught architecture at Princeton University for decades and was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Graves's breakthrough project was the Portland Building (1982), a municipal government building in Portland, Ore., which was the subject of recent controversy, when rumors circulated about its possible demolition. Other notable projects include the Swan and Dolphin Resort hotels (1987) at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.; the Central Library at the Denver Public Library (1990); Martel, Brown, and Jones Colleges at Rice University, in Houston (1999); and expansions of both the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2006) and the Detroit Institute of Arts (2007).
As his career progressed, Graves became equally well-known as an industrial designer, creating a famous teapot for Alessi with a whimsical bird spout and numerous products in partnership with retailer Target. In 2003, Graves contracted an infection that, within days, led to paralysis from the waist down. His response was to become an outspoken champion of accessible and healthcare design and design the Prime TC wheelchair and other products for the disabled and elderly. In 2013, President Barack Obama appointed Graves to the United States Access Board, also known as the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, an independent federal agency that "promotes equality for people with disabilities through leadership in accessible design and the development of accessibility guidelines and standards."