SAH News

Stanley Tigerman: Remembering Michael Graves

by Stanley Tigerman FAIA, RAAR, FSAH | Apr 01, 2015

Michael-Graves-2012-photog-Pauline-SaligaWhatever I achieved, Michael achieved more: more drawings, more paintings, more buildings, more industrial-designed objects—and they were all quite wondrous. How could you not love someone who designed Della Francesca-colored tea kettles with whistling bird’s spouts and overblown buildings with humongous swans and dolphins bidding you welcome? But he never made me feel uncomfortable when I inserted humor into my own work just as I never envied him when he made his architecture and design accessible through his sure hand and unwavering eye. By popularizing his work through his ideosyncratic use of symbolism and color, he lifted society’s collective spirits.

In a discipline not always noted for acts of generosity, Michael was generous to his peers. He recommended me for lectures, juries, symposia and buildings. He showed up when you wanted him to lecture and, in turn, he was always in the audience when you lectured at Princeton. In the end, he had Min Lin and loyal colleagues to ameliorate his paralysis. He painted from his wheel chair even as he took to designing for the disabled including, seminally, a prototype barrier-free house for the ‘Wounded Warrior’ project.

Ultimately, Michael had a great run with all the bells and whistles of well-deserved accolades that accompanied his accomplishments and we are all the better for it. In a discipline unfailingly humorless, he superimposed humanity onto his buildings and he will be remembered for that. I will miss him for his ‘unbearable lightness of being.’

© Stanley Tigerman FAIA, RAAR, FSAH
Chicago, April 1, 2015

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