At J.C. Penney’s recent rebranding launch party, AN spoke with architect and product designer Michael Graves about his new collection for the company and some career highlights. He even offers advice for aspiring architects and designers and talks about some current design work. How did designing a collection for JCPenney come about? I’ve known some of the people at Penney’s since my Target days, so when this opportunity came around we were looking for a way to slow down our commitment to Target at that time. When Penney’s offered what they did to us, we grabbed it in a second. It was such a good deal in terms of having a shop within a store. For me, that’s the game changer. If we were close friends and you told me you had to do some shopping for a relative or something like that, I’d tell you to go to our shop in Penney’s. It’s all there and that’s what excites me. What was your favorite part about designing the collection? Designing the collection. Any challenges you faced with it? Every day you face a challenge; with the materials you’re using, price point, function, appearance. All of that comes together in the quest for good design. But it was wonderful to get to do it and so much fun. People think it’s a struggle and hard work and all of that—and it is—but that’s what’s so gratifying about it is to get to do those things and to make “stuff.” If you had to name a single success of your career thus far, what would it be? That’s a very difficult thing [to answer] because there’s the practice of architecture, there’s the practice and business of product design, there’s health design—which is something we’re engaged in now—there was teaching. But Paul Goldberger or somebody said, “Michael would ultimately be known for the office he made, the people that he produced, the people that came to work at the office then go run a school of architecture somewhere, or when he was teaching how he taught them.” But it’s so hard to say one [element] is worth more than the other because I’ve never thought that way of “what’s the best thing I did,” or “who is my favorite child.” I have a favorite child on given days but designing this [collection] is right up there with everything. To get to open these shops all across the country now and to see what you all say about it will be interesting, as well, because that will really tell us how it’s doing. We will live and die, to some extent, by the consumer’s reaction [to our products]. Penney’s won’t keep it if it doesn’t sell but I think it will do well. Do you have any advice to offer aspiring architects or designers? Yes, two things: read, read, read, and draw, draw, draw. You can’t draw enough. While talking to the new dean of the school of architecture at Princeton, I told him, “I have to draw everyday just like a pianist would have practice the piano everyday.” You have to draw everyday: Once you know how, you can’t suddenly give it up. It’s the same thing with designing. I hate days that I don’t get to work on a building. I go home and I’m in a little bit of a funk because I didn’t get to do my craft that day. I had to give an interview, or talk to students, or talk to a client—all of it interesting. But the thing about my life is that I wouldn’t change it for anything. What excites you about the future of design? What we’re involved in is very exciting and now, especially with healthcare design, we’re really pleased with what’s going on. We’re doing a new hospital in Omaha, Nebraska and I’m so pleased with it. It’s a rehab center and it caters to the whole family, but there are a lot of kids there and kids need their parents. So, when young patients are in the hospital for weeks, at least, we have a place for one or the other of their parents to stay there as well. It’s not just a chair that turns into a bed but a real, little cubbyhole of a room. It’s the first time in hospital design that’s been done. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s going to be a game changer.
Posts tagged with "Michael Graves":
Depending on your tendencies toward miracles and/or conspiracies, you may have done a double-take if you saw J.C. Penney’s photographs of its Michael Graves-designed Stainless Steel Teapot. An online opinion that the kettle’s profile evoked Adolf Hitler saluting caught fire… and the now-backordered kettle will be available again on August 28.
Peter Murray, of the New London Architecture center, together with a dozen architects and planners, is biking from Portland, Oregon to Portland Place in London, studying how cities are responding to the demand for better cycling infrastructure. He reports from the start of his ride. The Architect's Newspaper is USA media sponsor of the trip and will post periodic updates of these architects on bicycles. Portland is to America what Copenhagen is to Europe: everyone looks to it as an exemplar cycling city, and it has been continually improving its cycling infrastructure for more than 40 years - the first Bicycle Masterplan was published in 1973. As a result, 6 per cent of Portland commuters now bike to work and the Active Transport Alliance’s annual Bike Commute Challenge attracts over 700 participant companies. Cycling is undoubtably a part of Portland’s culture with its Neighbourhood Greenways, bicycle boulevards, routes across key bridges, safe routes to school and the Eastbank Esplanade - a wide path shared with walkers and joggers overlooking the Willamette river. The city was awarded platinum status by the League of American Bicyclists and acclaimed by Bicycling magazine as number one for cycle-friendliness. It was this reputation that drew us to start our mammoth ride in Portland. In the few days we were in the city preparing for our departure we were able to test out the quality of infrastructure and can report that cycling in Portland feels comfortable, enjoyable and safe, certainly in comparison to London. Although to a bunch of Brits it was not so much the infrastructure that made one feel safe, but the courtesy and calmness of Portland’s car drivers, all who could teach the London cabbie a thing or two about the etiquette of the road. As far as contemporary architecture goes, the city is only known on the other side of the Atlantic as the home of Michael Graves’s Portland Building. It is a building that is so familiar through a millionarchitectural photographs and Jencksian primers that one could draw it without reference, yet the promulgated images totally ignore the building’s context in the city street. Today it sits there comfortably enough, the exterior has worn better than many other POMO icons (although the interiors are low ceilinged and less generous than expected) and one has to rake through the cultural embers of the early 80s to remember what all the fuss was about. While we were in Portland, livable streets activist Mark Gorton rode into to town for a lecture. He’s spreading the message from New York to main streets across the US that it’s time to tame the automobile. Gorton seeks nothing less than an American Streets Renaissance. We were surprised, in the discussion after Gorton’s talk, that locals were concerned that Portland’s own plans for better streets were running out of steam. “Probably the worst thing that could have happened was the Platinum Award from the League of Bicyclists” said Chris DiStefano head of bike outfitters Rapha. “The politicians are now resting on their laurels but there is still a lot to be done.” And other cities are catching up. The next big city we get to on our trans America ride is Minneapolis, whose politicians are eager to knock Portland off its top spot. It’ll take us a month to get there - but we look forward to sampling the Twin Cities’s cycling infrastructure to see just how big a threat they are.
President Obama's second-term White House is still in transition, with Ray LaHood out and rumors of an NTSB replacement, Sally Jewell likely in as Secretary of Interior. Among the non-Cabinet-level appointments, the President appointed Michael Graves to a member of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, an agency "devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities." Graves, who uses a wheelchair after an illness-induced partial paralysis, has been a leader in promoting accessibility in architecture, recently designing prototype houses for wounded and disabled veterans. This month, Graves will also be launching a new line of more than 300 products at retailer J.C. Penney, including kitchen appliances, candlesticks, and a toaster shaped like a piece of toast. The Indianapolis-born architect will return to his hometown on March 28 to give a lecture at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and he recently spoke with the Indy Star about delivering papers for the publication as a child, architecture, and the new product line. An exhibition of Graves' work, From Towers to Teakettles, is also on display at the Virginia Center for Architecture through March 31.
All barn jokes aside, this is great news for the Louisville firm of De Leon & Primmer Architecture Workshop. They received one of the AIA’s Institute Honor Awards for Architecture, allegedly the first Kentucky project to do so since Michael Grave’s cash register, the Humana Building. The barn is an operations facility for Mason Lane Farm and it’s really kind of amazing. Let’s hope that this becomes a rags to riches design story and that we see bigger, more amazing projects coming from De Leon & Primmer. Now that Museum Plaza was knocked off the drawing board, there’s room for a new iconic tower in Louisville. (Photo: Courtesy De Leon & Primmer)
ARZU STUDIO HOPE and live/work furniture company Coalesse have teamed up with six leading architects to design a series of bold rugs and also provide economic opportunities for Afghan women. Chicago-based ARZU first approached Stanley Tigerman and Margaret McCurry to design a collection of contemporary rugs, the proceeds of which support hundreds of rural women and their families through economic activity, and educational and health services. Rug weaving, which takes place in private homes, is one of the few industries where women can work safely. Tigerman and McCurry were so taken with ARZU's mission that they agreed to recruit high profile friends to contribute designs, including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Michael Graves, and Robert A.M. Stern. The resulting Masters Collection ranges to from historically inspired designs that evoke both Louis Sullivan and Islamic art to contemporary, abstract works. The hand-knotted rugs are available to order now.
On June 28th, the academicians of the National Academy welcomed 23 newly elected members, recognized for their contribution to American art and architecture. This year, the nominees included artists working in video, photography, and installation, further reinforcing the National Academy’s mission of promoting art across America. The roster of over 2,000 academicians includes famous pioneers of early American art such as Thomas Cole and seminal architects such as Philip Johnson. This year's inductees include visual artists such as Cindy Sherman and Bruce Nauman and architects Steven Holl and Michael Graves. Chosen annually by their peers, the elected members contributed representative work to the Academy’s permanent collection of over 7,000 artworks, architectural drawings, photographs, and models.
In speaking to wounded veterans and their families, the Wounded Warrior Home Project found that soldiers returning home face a cumbersome and costly adaptation to their environment. A private-public partnership, including Michael Graves and Associates, global design firm IDEO, and Clark Realty Capital, has unveiled two universally-accessible prototype houses at Fort Belvoir in Virginia where every element is designed for ease of use. Sinks and stovetops are on motorized lifts, halls and doorways accommodate a wide turning radius for navigating wheelchairs, sliding doors open with a light touch. Architect Michael Graves, who was left paralyzed after an illness almost a decade ago, wanted the space to offer independence and dignity to returning soldiers. For example, the design team concluded through conversations with wounded veterans that the therapy room should be secluded from the rest of the living space to offer privacy and retreat; at the same time, the need for visibility inside and outside the house for security and to keep track of playing children necessitates wide windows and clear doors within the house. These homes are intended to be both starting points for future dialogue on accessibility and laboratories for continuing research as more accessible homes are built.
The small world of classicist architecture in America--where many former Postmodernists found refuge after the dial of taste turned away from jokey historical references and pasted-on pediments--is working overtime to rehabilitate the 70s and 80s stylistic counter reformation. First was the recent conference, "Reconsidering Postmodernism," organized by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which brought out many of the movement's old stars for presentations, chats, and a lot of hand wringing. Today, the Chicago-based Richard H. Driehaus Foundation announced that Michael Graves was this year's winner of the $200,000 Driehaus Prize. Graves has enjoyed a remarkable career, designing office towers, cultural buildings, and hotels around the world, along with iconic furniture and housewares for Target. His footprint has been vast, and his populist designs appeal to people across global cultures through abstracted historical references that often draw on classical or vernacular forms. Administered by the University of Notre Dame's School of Architecture--itself an outpost of classical architectural education--the Driehaus Prize "honors lifetime contributions to traditional, classical, and sustainable architecture and urbanism in the modern world," according to a statement. Graves is having quite a good couple of weeks. His breakthrough Portland Building was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. “Michael Graves has enhanced not just the architecture profession with his talent and scholarship, but everyday life itself through his inspiring attention to beautiful and accessible design,” said Michael Lykoudis, Driehaus Prize Jury Chair and dean of the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, in a statement. The Foundation also announced that Elizabeth Barlow Rogers will receive the $50,000 Henry Hope Reed Prize, which is given "given to an individual working outside the practice of architecture who has supported the cultivation of the traditional city, its architecture and art through writing, planning or promotion." Rogers, currently president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies, served as the administrator of Central Park and was the founder of the Central Park Conservancy, which became a national model for public/private partnerships for restoring open spaces. She is also the author of several books on landscape, including the National Book Award nominated book The Forests and Wetlands of New York City.
Postmodernism, the exuberant, eclectic, and ironic style born out of the death of the modernist dream in the 1960s and 70s, was the subject of the two-day-long "Reconsidering Postmodernism" conference last weekend, presented by the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. The two marathon days of lectures, panels, and videos was filled with the original rock stars of the postmodernist world, including architects Robert A. M. Stern and Michael Graves, theorists Charles Jencks and Tom Wolfe, urbanists Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and a small but passionate younger crowd who couldn’t help but revel in the rambunctiousness of their vaunted forebearers. The beginning of postmodernism, an active topic at the conference, was assigned multiple dates. It was either with the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe low-income houses in 1972, which Charles Jencks defines as “the day modernism died,” with the publication of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture in 1966, perhaps with the opening of Morris Lapidus’ first bodacious beach resort in 1949, or it even could have been at the beginnings of modernism itself, when hairline cracks in the modernist utopian vision had already begun to form. There were even Italian precedents: in the 1950s Torre Velasca, designed by Ernesto Rogers in Milan, and the Venice Architectural Biennale of 1980. Something about the conference compelled people’s interest in the big, chronically under-discussed themes of architecture. Andres Duany championed a broader classical canon, through his 175 (and counting…) orders of classicism. A discussion of stylistic evolution was continually present, causing architectural writer Witold Rybczynski to come to the conclusion at one point that taste is more important than style. “This is something we don’t discuss, but should” was a phrase uttered by many over both days. The conference showed that postmodernism is still controversial, but also that it is extremely alive today, proving to be a resilient and long lasting force in architecture. Reasons for this were debated. Barry Bergdoll, the Phillip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at MoMA, asked if postmodernism was an attitude or a movement, suggesting the possible eternality of the mode, and that PoMo is not only analogous with the Mannerist or Hellenistic phases of architectural history, but actually the same thing. If modernism discarded everything that came before it, and began from “level zero,” as Gropius said it did, then postmodernism is letting everything flood back in, picking up where the world left off, and making a joke of it to lighten the mood. The “joke” of postmodernism was an important conference theme and recurred frequently. Humor mitigates the promotion of dogma, which was seen as a cause of modernism’s failure, and forces postmodernism to embrace its own flaws. Jokes also accept the world for what it is. As one conference-goer said, “The world isn’t as black and white as it used to be.” Humor was fantastically present over those two days. ICAA president Paul Gunther’s opening remarks on the morning of day one called postmodernism “A case of multiple personality disorders” before becoming a bit more serious and stating, correctly, that the purpose of the next two days was to “overcome the denial of postmodernism.” If not completely embraced by all in attendance, the conference at least succeeded in doing that. At the end of day two, with everything having been said, the final panel was oddly mellow and subdued. Perhaps nobody wanted to leave the reunion, or perhaps the gauntlet was being handed to the young people in the room, like Sam Jacob of the U.K. architecture firm F.A.T., architect and writer Jimmy Stamp, or any others of the wacky new generation of postmodernists.
"Drafted: the evolving role of architects in furniture design." It was a MAD idea: To talk about why American manufacturers don’t do the job they once did in supporting American architects and designers at making furniture. Held March 10 at the Museum of Arts & Design’s own restored and midcentury soigné auditorium, the assembled panel really knew what they were talking about: Michael Graves recalled his early days working for George Nelson in riveting detail and why Target has dropped independent designers; Jeffrey Bernett, one of the few American designers routinely designing for B&B, summed up Italy versus Herman Miller; Gisue Hariri of Hariri & Hariri eloquently addressed why architects feel compelled to make furniture, and what happened when her architecture firm tried to go there on a larger scale; and Granger Moorhead of Moorhead & Moorhead gave great reason for everyone to hope there is another golden age, especially for New York furniture designers, just ahead. https://vimeo.com/21070456
Dilapidated modernism. Chandigarh, the northern Indian city planned and designed by Le Corbusier over 60 years ago, has become the focus of preservation efforts following years of neglect and piecemeal plundering, reports the UK's Guardian. Cycle support. Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation, spoke to attendees of the National Bike Summit in DC this week, encouraging them to lobby their congressional reps to take steps to make communities cycle-friendly. Streetsblog notes LaHood's appearance coincides with the release of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide by the National Association of City Transportation Officials. Pier on the half shell. The Battery Park City Authority has leased the languishing Pier A at the western edge of Battery Park to father-and-son restaurateurs Harry and Peter Poulakakos, who are promising to turn the pier and its landmark 1886 building into an oyster bar-beer garden with one heck of a view. More details in Crain's NY. Tonight: Drafted! In New York? Don't miss AN executive editor Julie Iovine in conversation with Michael Graves, Granger Moorehead, Gisue Hariri and Jeffrey Bernett at 7pm tonight, Thursday, March 10 at the Museum of Arts and Design for Drafted: The Evolving Role of Architects in Furniture Design, part of MAD's "The Home Front: American Furniture Now" series. Click here for tix.