Architect Michael Graves, who died Thursday at the age of 80, is perhaps best known for Postmodern projects such as the Portland Building (1982) and the Denver Public Library (1990). But his design legacy goes beyond structures. Graves also led a robust product-design practice whose work for mainstream consumer retailer Target, in addition to a suite of high-end home-goods brands including Alessi, brought high design to the masses.
In 2011, he spoke with the The New York Times about his Target partnership. “I always wanted to do what Josef Hoffmann, Wiener Werkstätte and the Bauhaus wanted to do, which they never got to do because they designed in a craft mode,” he said. “We have behind us all this mass production, so why not take advantage and bring the price down for everybody? … I figured, if it’s going to get designed, let’s do it well.” His collaboration with Target ended in 2012 after 13 years.
His scope of work also included healthcare. In 2003, an infection left Graves paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair-bound. He told The Times in the same interview that the experience inspired him to rethink the design of patient-care spaces and the products used to outfit them, resulting in the development of new patient furniture for Stryker Medical, among other work.
Below, we recap a selection of Graves’s celebrated industrial design work.
Graves "whistling bird" teakettle for Alessi, 1985.
A collection of kitchen accessories designed for Target.
The Prime TC Hospital Transport Chair for Stryker Medical.
Table Top in polished brass from Graves' luminaire collection for Ilex Architectural Lighting.
Stream, one of two drain covers designed for Quickdrain USA.
The 5+ Collection of architectural glass for Skyline Design.