Michael Graves
Denver Central Library

Michael Graves, a pioneering postmodern architect and designer best known for the Portland Building in Oregon and his iconic Kettle with Bird Whistle, died today of natural causes at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. He was 80 years old.

“For those of us who had the opportunity to work closely with Michael, we knew him as an extraordinary designer, teacher, mentor, and friend,” said his firm in a statement this afternoon.

Over the course of 50 years, Graves grew his eponymous firm, Michael Graves Architecture & Design, to be one of the most recognized design practices in the world.

Inspired by Le Corbusier, Graves began his career as a modernist architect and as a member of a group dubbed the New York Five which had a penchant for white, planar, open-plan structures. In the mid-1970s, however, he left the fold for a post-modernist approach that valued traditional architecture and historical allusions.

While he was celebrated for his architecture, Graves and his design firm, Michael Graves Design Group, brought more than 2,500 products—from salad bowls to chairs—to market on the behalf of clients, which included Target, Disney, and JCPenney.

Graves was also known as an educator and taught at Princeton University School of Architecture for nearly four decades, beginning in 1962. In October, Kean University in New Jersey unveiled its newest division, the Michael Graves School of Architecture, for which Graves was developing the curriculum.

Among his firm’s 200-plus awards, Graves has received the AIA Gold Medal, and the National Medal of the Arts. In 2012, Graves won the Richard H. Driehaus Prize and the following year, was appointed by President Obama to the United States Access Board for his groundbreaking work in healthcare design. In celebration of his firm’s 50th anniversary last year, Graves was the subject of numerous retrospectives, exhibitions, and lectures.

Said his firm in a statement, “As we go forward in our practice we will continue to honor Michael’s humanistic design philosophy through our commitment to creating unique design solutions that transform people’s lives.”