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About Michael Graves (Designer)
Michael Graves was one of the most prominent and influential architects and designers of the late- 20th and early- 21st centuries. In his buildings and in his furniture and housewares, Graves embodied the essence of Postmodernism — a refined classicism inflected with a humanistic sense of joy.
The Indiana-born Graves attended the University of Cincinnati’s architectural program and continued his studies at Harvard as well as at the American Academy in Rome. In 1962, he began teaching at Princeton, and remained there throughout his career. Following a seminal 1972 Museum of Modern Art group survey of rising modernist architects, Graves, along with Richard Meier, Charles Gwathmey, Peter Eisenman and John Hejduk, gained fame as a member of the “New York Five.” But even then Graves was looking to break from the monotony of modernism. Graves projects such as the Portland Building in Oregon (1982) and the Humana Building in Louisville, Kentucky (1985) would usher in postmodernism—a new architectural language employing symbolic color and a clever redux of classical elements, such as keystones and pilasters, blown up to cartoonishly large proportions.
At the same time, Graves began to incorporate decoration and historical motifs into his furniture and houseware designs. His 1980 lounge chair for the maker Sunar Hauserman reinterprets the Biedermeier 'style of the early 19th century. His collaboration in the 1980s with the Italian design company Alessi produced such treasures as the now-iconic Coffee and Tea Piazza series, which included the ever-charming tea kettle and its red bird-shaped whistle embellishing the spout. As you will see from the offerings on these pages, Michael Graves knew how to create work of drama and substance — but with a smile.