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Male, US, born 1934-07-09, died 2015-03-12

Associated with the firm network

Graves, Michael, Architect

Professional History


Principal, Michael Graves, Architect, Princeton, NJ, 1964-2015; Graves was one of the most celebrated Post Modern architects of the 1980s. His Portland Public Services Building was cited, by critics such as Kenneth Frampton and Charles Jencks, as one of the most influential and complex buildings of its time. A large building competition was staged to determine its architect in 1980. Local critics and architects, for the most part, were not sympathetic to Graves's winning design. The selection of his design triggered a monumental dispute pitting "hard-line" Modernists against those, the Post Modernists, more willing to inject irony and overt historical allusion into their designs. For a time after the Portland Building's selection, Post Modernists, such as Graves, Venturi and others, reigned supreme, winning commissions and influencing other architects for the balance of the Reagan Era.

The firm became known later in his life as "Michael Graves Architecture and Design."


Assistant Professor, Princeton University, School of Architecture, Princeton, NJ, 1962- .

Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus, Princeton University, School of Architecture, Princeton, NJ.

Professional Activities

Graves became a prolific industrial designer, producing a spectrum of designs for such companies as Sunar, Target, J.C. Penney, Disney, Steuben, and Alessi.

Member, Anerican Institute of Architects (AIA).

Trustee, American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy.

Lecture, "Meaning and Mythology in Architecture," Broadway Auditorium, Seattle, WA, 07/22/1980. A story in the Seattle Times explained that Graves was in Seattle in 07/1980 for a three-day architectural symposium held at the Battelle Institute and the Broadway Auditorium. It reported: "Nationally known figures in architecture, anthropology, history and other areas will examine how cultural and social values relate to architectural design, at a three-day symposium being held here through Wednesday. The symposium is sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Festival in the Forest Association, with some funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Washington Commission for the Humanities. While most sessions are invitational, two are open to the public without charge, both at the Broadway Auditorium, at Broadway and Pike Street. They are: —7:30 p.m. Tuesday, ‘Meaning and Mythology in Architecture’ a presentation by Michael Graves, professor of architecture at Princeton University, of his work, followed by a panel discussion by symposium participants. Graves designed the proposed new Public Service Building in Portland. —10:30 a.m. Wednesday, ‘Theory and the Profession: The Design Process,’ a panel discussion of the relationship between architectural theory and architectural practice, and the problems of translating issues addressed in the gathering into buildings. Four additional sessions, for the visiting experts and other invitees, will be held tomorrow and Tuesday at the Battelle Institute. Among the visitors will be Arthur Erickson, celebrated Vancouver, B.C., architect (who will be lecturing also at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow in Meany Hall at the University of Washington); Alan Trachtenberg, Yale University professor of American studies and author; George Baird, professor of architecture at the University of Toronto and editor of Canada’s City Magazine; Kenneth Frampton, Columbia University architectural theorist, and others from this country and abroad.” (See “Symposium to draw prominent figures,” Seattle Times, 07/20/1980, H1.)

President, American Academy in Rome, Society of Fellows, Rome, Italy, 1980-1984.

Professional Awards

Fellow, American Institute of Architects (FAIA), 1979.

Recipient, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize, New York, NY, 1980.

Recipient, Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, Chicago, IL, American Prize for Architecture (aka "The Louis Sullivan Award"), 1994.

Recipient, National Endowment for the Arts, National Medal of Arts, Washington, DC, 1999. (This award was bestowed by President Bill Clinton.)

Recipient, GQ Magazine, Man of the Year, New York, NY, 1999.

Recipient, AIA, Gold Medal, 2001.

Honorary Degree, Doctor of Architecture, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, 05/11/2001.

Recipient, Indiana Historical Society, Indiana Living Legend Award, Indianapolis, IN, 2002.

Inaugural Recipient, AIA, NJ Chapter, Michael Graves Lifetime Achievement Award, Trenton, NJ, 2004.

Senior Fellow, Design Futures Council, Norcross, GA, 2009.

Inductee, New Jersey Hall of Fame, Newark, NJ, 2010.

Named to "Top 25 Most Influential People in Healthcare Design," by Healthcare Design magazine and the Center for Health Design, Concord, CA, 2010.

Recipient, University of Notre Dame, The Richard H. Driehaus Prize at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN, 2012.

Honorary Degree, D.F.A., Emory University, Atlanta, GA, 05/13/2013.

Recipient, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement, New York, NY, 2015.

Member, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY.


High School/College

Graduate, Broad Ripple High School, Indianapolis, IN, 1952

B.Arch., University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, 1958.

M.Arch., Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA, 1959.

College Awards

Recipient, American Academy in Rome, Prix de Rome, Rome Italy, 1960-1962.



He was buried at Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, NJ.


His father, Thomas Browning Graves was a livestock trader. His wife, Erma Lowe Graves, was trained as a nurse, but quit the profession to raise her two sons. His mother lost her leg to cancer.


He married Gail Devine, his high school girlfriend, in 1955. They divorced.

He married Lucy James, a dancer, from 1972-1977.


Michael and Gail Graves had two children.

Biographical Notes

As a teenager, Graves did not excel in school, but played sports and drew. His drawing became his most notable talent. Graves, as a teen, also shifted religions on his own, from Presbyterianism to Episcopalianism, because he preferred the ritualism of the latter's services. (See Charles Jencks, Kings of Infinite Space, [London: Academy Editions, 1983], p. 61.)

Associated Locations

  • Indianapolis, IN (Architect's Birth)
    Indianapolis, IN

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  • Princeton, NJ (Architect's Death)
    Princeton, NJ 08542

PCAD id: 1455

"San Juan Capistrano Regional Library: San Juan Capistrano, California", A + U: Architecture and Urbanism, 164, 78-85, 1984-05. Watanabe, Hiroshi, "Seeing Architecture: San Juan Capistrano Regional Library", A + U: Architecture and Urbanism, 164, 120-122, 1984-05. Pastier, John, "Mission imagery, introverted spaces: San Juan Capistrano library. San Juan Capistrano, California", AIA Journal, 73: 5, 258-267, 1984-05. "San Juan Capistrano Public Library, 1981, and Sunar showroom, Los Angeles, 1980; architect: Michael Graves", Architectural Design, 52: 1-2, 98-101, 1982. " San Juan Capistrano Public Library Design Competition", Architectural Record, 169: 4, 46-49, 1981-03. Pastier, John, "Missionary Graves: Library, San Juan Capistrano", Architectural Review, 176: 1052, 52-57, 1984-10. "1985 AIA Honor Awards", Architecture California, 7: 5, 14-16, 1985-09/10. "Bibliotek i San Juan Capistrano, Californien", Arkitektur DK, 28: 5, A57-A58, 1984-09. "AIA Honor Awards include Graves' library ", Buildings Design Journal, 3: 6, 15-17, Lavin, Sylvia, "La biblioteca pubblica di San Juan Capistrano: Fitting the style", Domus, 650, 8-13, 1984-05. "Michael Graves: Public library, San Juan Capistrano, California, design: 1980; completion: 1983", GA Document, 10, 24-41. Filler, Martin, "Romance comes back to Capistrano. Michael Graves's new library in California mission tradition", House and Garden, 156: 3, 148-153, 1984-03. Jencks, Charles, Kings of Infinite Space, 52-56, 1983. Jencks, Charles, "The Return to the Public Realm--Michael Graves (1934-)", Kings of Infinite Space, 59-101, 1983. Jencks, Charles, Kings of Infinite Space, 81-83, 1983. Jencks, Charles, Kings of Infinite Space, 86-97, 1983. Wheatley, Charles H., "The San Juan Capistrano Library", L.A. Architect, 3, 1984-03. Harper, Hilliard, "Noted Architect Designs San Diego Complex to Blend with Area's Climate and Life Style", Los Angeles Times, D1, D9, 1988-05-24. Sutro, Dirk, "Architecture: Too Busy to Hear Dirge to Modernism", Los Angeles Times, E1, E14-E15, 1989-11-16. Jencks, Charles, Post-Modernism The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, 30-32, 1987. Jencks, Charles, Post-Modernism The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, 306-308, 1987. Jencks, Charles, Post-Modernism The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, 308-310, 1987. Jencks, Charles, Post-Modernism The New Classicism in Art and Architecture, 29-32, 182, 214, 327-328, 1987. Viladas, Pilar, "Ex Libris: Regional Library, San Juan Capistrano, Calif", Progressive Architecture, 65: 6, 69-79, 1984-06. "Library adjoins 200-year old Spanish colonial mission: San Juan Capistrano Library, San Juan Capistrano, ca., 1980", Urban Design International, 5: 2, 30-31, 1985 Winter.