Michael Graves

Humana Building, Louisville, 1982-1985

The headquarters for a corporation operating in the healthcare industry, the Humana Building, built between 1982 and 1986 in Louisville Kentucky, is considered as one of the masterpieces of postmodern architecture. In this project, like the Public Service Building (Portland, 1980-82), Graves utilizes a vocabulary borrowed from the history of architecture – ranging from Greek classicism to the International Style – blending contextual integration and urban sign. Organized following a strict grid, the façades in blocks of pink granite are enriched with fine ornamentation and the subtle use of textures and shades. Contrary to recent neighboring constructions, the Humana Building reestablishes the street as an essential urban form and adapts to the height of adjacent older buildings by aligning its first eight floors with their façades. On the street level, a loggia with pilasters and red arcades opens onto the shopping areas of the ground floor. The monumental main entrance, surrounded by cascades and fountains, leads to a vestibule that in turn opens onto an immense lobby, three stories high and surrounded by a gallery of offices. Further on, in the center of the building, a rotunda directs the public towards the elevators, parking garages and reception desk. In the upper floors, the west façade is set back, outlining an elegant shape which seems to be an answer to the modern silhouette of the neighboring tower to the east. The metal structure supporting the porch on the top floor is reminiscent of the many metal bridges straddling the Ohio River, visible from the vast glassed-in bay of the boardroom. Finally, a capital with protruding corbels and gables tops the building and recalls the confrontation, 26 floors below, between the axis of the main street and its intersecting avenues.

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