Dezeen Magazine

Rafael Viñoly

Tributes paid to "energetic, elegant and passionate" architect Rafael Viñoly

Architects and critics including Norman Foster and Michael Kimmelman have paid tribute to Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly following his death last week.

Rafael Viñoly, who designed hundreds of projects across the world including skyscrapers 432 Park Avenue and the Walkie Talkie, died aged 78 on March 2. Other key projects by the architect included the Tokyo International Forum, Cleveland Museum of Art and Carrasco Airport.

His passing was confirmed by his son Román Viñoly, a director at Rafael Viñoly Architects, who called him a "visionary" on Instagram.

"He was a visionary who will be missed by all those whose lives he touched through his work," wrote Román Viñoly.

"He leaves a rich legacy of distinctive and timeless designs that manifested in some of the world's most recognizable and iconic structures, among them the Tokyo International Forum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Carrasco Airport in Montevideo, and 20 Fenchurch Street in London."

Rafael Viñoly "had an ethical conscience"

Numerous architects paid tribute to architect Rafael Viñoly including British architect Norman Foster, who became aware of his work after visiting the Tokyo International Forum

"I was so taken aback by its soaring, light-filled space and filigree structure that I tracked down the architect, Rafael Viñoly, and wrote a letter of congratulations to him," Foster told Dezeen.

"That was the start of a friendship based, not just on his outstanding architecture, but on the pleasure of his company."

 Tokyo International Forum
The Tokyo International Forum was one of Rafael Viñoly's key buildings. Photo by Mos Design via Unsplash

"Rafael was energetic, elegant, passionate, articulate and witty. He also had an ethical conscience on the wider implications of architecture," continued Foster.

"I recall that we were both members of a jury for a project on the outskirts of St Petersburg, when it seemed to us that there was an inexorable move to select a tall tower that would impact the skyline of the historic city. We were both of one voice and, together, we resigned from the jury."

Studio Seilern Architects founder Christina Seilern, who was a founding director of Rafael Viñoly Architects London described Viñoly as "my mentor, collaborator, and one of my dearest friends".

"He possessed incredible generosity of thought, with a creative spirit that inspired a generation of architects," she said. "I am honoured to have been witness to his electric energy, his endearing humour, his elegance, and his genius.

"He was an unfailing friend – he gave me great courage and for that I am forever grateful," she added.

"An icon of Architecture passes." 

Architect and Dezeen columnist Cameron Sinclair was among the numerous people to pay tribute to the architect on Twitter.

"Goodnight Rafael," he wrote. "An icon of Architecture passes."

New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman added: "RIP Rafael Viñoly, a groundbreaking architect of enormous civility and imagination."

432 Park Avenue
He designed the 432 Park Avenue skyscraper. Photo by Arturo Pardavila.

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger drew attention to the quality of his work in New York, including the Rockefeller University and 432 Park Avenue skyscraper.

"Very sad to learn of the death of Rafael Vinoly, whose architecture, both exuberant and pragmatic, impacted New York and the world," he wrote on Twitter. "I think his expansion of Rockefeller University over the FDR Drive was one of his greatest achievements, even if 432 Park was more conspicuous."

"A delightful and charming man"

In the UK, critics paid tribute to the architect but suggested that his best work had not been in the country.

"So sorry to hear that Rafael Viñoly has died," wrote FT architecture and design critic Edwin Heathcote. "Here he is in the terrible Walkie Talkie but he was also the architect of the sublime 432 Park Avenue and a delightful and charming man. Superb musician, multiple glasses wearer, stylish and generous. I'll miss him."

UK critic and broadcaster Tom Dyckhoff echoed this sentiment. "Rafael Viñoly RIP," he wrote on Twitter. "A right old charmer, great fun to spend time with, with a fierce life story; he made glorious buildings – the Tokyo International Forum!, and some stinkers – the Walkie Talkie. A life well lived."

Designer Adam Nathaniel Furman also stated that his best work was not in the UK.

"RIP Rafael Viñoly, despite the Colchester banana and the Battersea masterplan you were involved in the creation of many fantastic buildings from Buenos Aires to Chicago and Tokyo," he tweeted.

Viñoly was a fellow at the American Institute of Architects, an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a member of the Japan Institute of Architects.