Architect Michael Graves died this morning in Princeton at age 80. Law enforcement officials confirmed his death to NJ.com.
Part of the New York Five and the Memphis Group, Graves was one of the most recognized practitioners of postmodern architecture, and last year, though his work had largely gone out of fashion, the proposed demolition of his Portland Building kicked off a broad conversation about the preservation of postmodern buildings.
Since founding Michael Graves & Associates in 1964, in Princeton, where graves has taught since the early '60s, the Indianapolis native designed over 350 buildings around the world, including the Denver Public Library, the Humana tower in Louisville, and an expansion to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Graves also designed the scaffolding for the restoration of the Washington Monument. Through the Michael Graves Design Group, he created over 2,000 products, but is probably best known for the line of products he created for Target.
When Graves' relationship with Target began in 1996, he became the first well-known designer to create products for a large discount retailer. When asked by the New York Times whether he was worried working for Target would hurt his reputation, Graves replied:
Just the opposite. It was my hope to do that. I had been designing for Alessi and Swid Powell and Steuben and high-end people, and people always complained, "Michael, we'd love to buy your stuff, but it's too expensive." 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. We have behind us all this mass production, so why not take advantage and bring the price down for everybody? It was Target who called it the "democratization of design." I figured, if it's going to get designed, let's do it well. So that's what we did, and I'm happy about it. The other part implied in your question is, Would you take a certain buffeting from the press or colleagues? And at the beginning there were snide remarks. I remember being at a black-tie dinner, which was a roast for someone else, and my designing for Target came up. I laughed, but I thought to myself, "It won't be long until you're doing that, too."
Graves was paralyzed from the waist down in 2003 by a spinal cord infection. In 2010, Barack Obama appointed him to the United States Access Board, a federal agency that maintains and develops guidelines for making buildings compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.