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I went to the 34 Annual Interiors Awards breakfast this morning in New York with an attitude about Michael Graves, who was receiving the 2013 Legend award from Contract magazine.

Graves is undoubtedly one of the most influential architects of our time, delighting the world with post-modern buildings and interiors in the 1980s when everyone else was still in the less is more mode.  At age 78, he’s spent the bulk of his career designing mostly houses hotels, libraries, museums, civic buildings — as well as products for companies like Alessi and Target.

It was only recent — when he became paralyzed 10 years ago — that Graves started thinking about healthcare, designing a line of furniture for Stryker and accessible homes for the Wounded Warrior project. But because he is a “StarArchitect,” he’s received a lot of attention for his healthcare work.

And that’s what bugs me.  Graves does bring a unique perspective to healthcare. But to elevate him above those that have blazed the healthcare and universal design trails before him seems unfair.

New Appreciation of a Great Architect

But after listening to Graves speak — during a 10-minute video retrospective of his legacy and then in person on the stage, I have a new appreciation of the man and his work.

He is a great architect and it’s good that he’s focusing on healthcare design. Perhaps he will be able to challenge us to think differently and bring some new ideas to the table.

Because he’s not done yet.

“I wake up every morning raring to go,” Graves said in the video.  “I look forward to every day’s work.  I don’t have any thoughts of retiring. I’m only 78 and I do my work with such joy that I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Graves’ next big thing is a line of products for J.C. Penney. I’m hoping some of them will be home healthcare products.  He’s also designing some orthopedic clinics in Colorado and New Jersey.

For a much better article about Graves’ legacy in the field of architecture, read James Russell’s profile in Contract magazine. To watch the videos of Graves and Designer of the Year Joey Shimoda, visit Contract’s Vimeo site.

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Robert Levine

8 years ago

Hey Sara. Nice blog site and good comments on Graves. I posted a NY Times article about Graves a few months ago on my Group site (Healthcare Reform and Capital Development).

A great quote by Graves from that article was …

“As I work with my computer-savvy students and staff today, I notice that something is lost when they draw only on the computer. It is analogous to hearing the words of a novel read aloud, when reading them on paper allows us to daydream a little, to make associations beyond the literal sentences on the page. Similarly, drawing by hand stimulates the imagination and allows us to speculate about ideas, a good sign that we’re truly alive.”

Sara Marberry

8 years ago

Thanks, Bob. For those of you who want to join Bob’s group, it’s on LinkedIn.

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Sara Marberry, EDAC, is a healthcare design knowledge expert, thought catalyst, and strategic marketing and business development consultant. The author/editor of three books, Sara writes and speaks frequently about industry trends and evidence-based design. She can be reached at sara@saramarberry.com.

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