Michael Graves is better known for appropriating traditional forms in his monumental Postmodern compositions than for being a strict classicist, so it may seem surprising that in December he was named the winner of the 2012 Driehaus Prize, which celebrates architects who advance classicism in their work. Graves, the founding principal of the New York- and New Jersey-based firm Michael Graves & Associates, joins previous winners Léon Krier, Allan Greenberg, Quinlan Terry, and last year’s recipient Robert A.M. Stern.
Although initially considered a modernist and one of the “New York Five,” Graves’ two years in Italy as a 1960 Rome Prize recipient and the “timeless grammar” of its architecture influenced his evolving style. In his 39 years as a professor at Princeton (now Emeritus), “Graves re-introduced the principles of traditional and classical composition and also brought a dedication to urbanism to a modernist curriculum,” says the award announcement from the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture, which established the $200,000 annual prize in 2003. Graves’ taste for classical forms and geometries is evident in his buildings—including the Portland (Oregon) Public Services Building, with references to capital-topped columns embedded on its façade, and the loggia-fronted Humana Corporation headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, among many other projects.