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Michael Graves: Designer for Buildings and Bathtub Grab Bars

As a postmodernist architect, Michael Graves designed more than 350 buildings around the world, achieving renown for reinterpreting classical elements such as colonnades and loggias.

Graves and his bathtub handle

But Graves, who passed away March 12 at age 80 in Princeton, N.J., became more famous than other giants of architecture because ordinary people could buy things he designed at Target. Graves moonlighted as a prolific industrial designer, creating everything from furniture to tea kettles to wheelchairs and adaptive devices for the disabled.

Here are examples of his most imaginative architectural and industrial designs.

  • The Team Disney Building in Burbank, Calif, a wry homage to the Greek Parthenon, with 20-foot-high statues of the Seven Dwarfs instead of Doric columns to hold up the pediment.
  • The scaffolding installed around the Washington Monument in 1999 to protect it during restoration work, and again in 2011 during repairs of earthquake damage, which gave the landmark a glittering, futuristic look.
  • The 9093 tea kettle that he designed for homeware company Alessi, with a whistle in the shape of a tiny bluebird.
  • The stylish pepper mill that he also designed for Alessi.
  • The Prime TC ergonomic wheelchair, which utilized a plastic molded seat for more comfort, improved stability and cornering, and push handles that could be adjusted to caregivers of any height.

Here’s a 2012 interview with Graves at his home in Princeton, which he created by renovating a 19th-century warehouse, in which he talked about his classical inspirations and how he applied them to both buildings and objects.

Photo: AP Photo/Mel Evans

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