Giant of post-modernism Michael Graves dies aged 80

Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation 13th Annual Gala

Post-modernist architect Michael Graves has died at the age of 80 at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, USA.

He made his name in the 1980s as one of the popularisers of a new kind of architecture, including The Portland Building, the city administrative building in Portland, Oregon, and The Humana Building, a 26-story skyscraper in Louisville, Kentucky.

“Michael Graves was a kind of giant of the period of architecture called postmodernism, when architects around the 1980s looked back to European design precedence,” said Pauline Saliga, the director of the Society of Architectural Historians.


“They kind of rejected the sterility of modernism. They were looking for other design inspirations.”

Graves also designed a campus master plan for Rice University in Houston, the Swan and Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World and the scaffolding for the Washington Monument when it was renovated in the late 1990s so it would remain attractive throughout the work.

President Bill Clinton awarded Graves the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and the American Institute of Architects gave him its gold medal, the highest award for an architect, in 2001.

Later in life, Graves started designing signature household items such as tea kettles and colanders. His Alessi kettle, introduced in 1985, features a spout with a bird that sings when the water boils.

In 2003, Graves was paralysed from the waist down from an infection and used a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

After the illness, he began a third career, designing for people with disabilities. He designed items including a wheelchair, heating pads and bathroom handrails and accessible homes for the Wounded Warrior Project. President Barack Obama named him to the United States Access Board in 2013.

Graves, born in Indianapolis, studied architecture at the University of Cincinnati and Harvard University. He won the Rome Prize in 1960 and spent two years studying in Italy.

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