Working from his early days on a redefinition of the language of modern architecture, the American designer and architect Michael Graves became an emblematic figure of the postmodern movement, alongside Charles Jencks, Robert Venturi, Aldo Rossi and Philip Johnson. Interested in the affinities between architecture and other artistic disciplines, in the late 1970s he began proposing the reappropriation and assemblage of archetypes of historical styles (mannerism, cubism, Italian Renaissance, Art Deco) in architectural “collages”. In the Public Service Building (Portland, 1980-82) and then the Humana Building (Louisville, 1982-86), the architect reuses the classical division of a main structure placed on a base and topped with a capital. Enriched with pictorial motifs, ornamental details and often statuary, the façades in bold colors became veritable signs in the service of a contextual approach. For Graves, architecture must become part of a continuum, from the urban environment to its interior furnishings, which he also designs. These principles would be at the heart of his later works, from architectural fantasies for Disney (Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort Hotel, Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, 1987-1990; Team Disney Building, Burbank, 1986-91) up to his most recent projects (The St. Coletta School, Washington, 2001; Resorts World Sentosa, Sentosa, 2006-2010).
Graduate of Cincinnati University (1958) and Harvard University (1959), Michael Graves (Indianapolis, 1934) won the Prix de Rome and a two-year residency at the American Academy in Rome in 1960. In 1964, he founded his own firm in Princeton. In 1969, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented his work alongside that of the other members of the group known as the New York Five (Peter Eisenman, John Hedjuk, Richard Meier and Charles Gwathmey). The architect has received over two hundred awards (National Medal of Arts, 1999; Gold Medal of the AIA, 2001; Topaz Medallion, 2010). A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Doctor Honoris causa of more than 15 universities and schools around the globe, Michael Graves has also led a distinguished career as a professor at Princeton University (1962-2001).