Dezeen Magazine

Michael Graves 1934-2015

Michael Graves dies aged 80

Architect and designer Michael Graves has died at his home in Princeton, New Jersey at the age of 80, his office has announced.

"It is with deep sadness that Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MG&AD) announces the firm’s founding principal, Michael Graves, passed away today, suddenly and peaceful, of natural causes," the firm announced on its website.

9093 Kettle by Michael Graves for Alessi
9093 Kettle by Michael Graves for Alessi, 1985

Born in 1934 in Indianapolis, Graves set up his architectural practice in Princeton in 1964. He is best known for works of both architecture and design in the Postmodern style, notably the Portland Public Services Building in Portland, Oregon, and a range of implements for Italian kitchenware brand Alessi.

"Profoundly sad news today: Michael Graves is dead at 80," said architecture critic Paul Goldberger on Twitter. "An extraordinary, wide-ranging, uneven and brilliant career."

Portland Public Services Building by Michael Graves & Associates, 1982
Portland Public Services Building by Michael Graves & Associates, 1982

The Portland building, considered a seminal Postmodern work, is a monolithic cube with richly decorated facades featuring colourful, oversized geometric abstractions of classical columns. The building has recently been threatened with demolition.

Graves was a member of the so-called New York Five, a group of five prominent, Modernism-inspired architects working in the city in the late 1960s that also included Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk and Richard Meier.

Sketch by Michael Graves for the 9093 kettle
Sketch by Michael Graves for the 9093 kettle

In the 1980s Graves became a member of Memphis, the influential Postmodern design movement based in Milan and founded by Ettore Sottsass. During this period he designed products for Alessi, including the iconic 9093 stove-top kettle. The conical stainless-steel product, which featured a whistling bird on its spout, became the brand's best-selling product that decade.

"This product was, for something like 15 years, a number-one seller," Alessi owner Alberto Alessi told Dezeen last year. "It still is one of the top ten."