Michael Graves, the influential architect whose whimsical post-modern style was well suited to buildings such as the dwarves-bedecked Team Disney building and several Disney theme park hotels, died Thursday in Princeton, N.J. He was 80 and had been paralyzed from the chest down as a result of a spinal cord infection since 2003.
The 1986 Team Disney building on the Burbank lot had only hints of the Memphis Group style that influenced Graves’ household object designs such as the Alessi tea kettle, but the iconic seven dwarves were well integrated into the Parthenon-influenced design, in the manner of modern-day caryatids.
Graves went on to design Walt Disney World’s distinctive Dolphin and Swan resorts in Orlando, a pair of unusually shaped pink and blue buildings topped with giant animal statues. Meant to look like an art deco New York building, his 1989 Disney Hotel New York at Disneyland Paris was more subdued, with colorful post-modern touches.
Former Disney president Michael Eisner once said of him: “Michael Graves is an architect for whom design has no boundaries. There is no such thing as an insignificant object.”
He designed dozens of other prominent hotels, universities, residences and public buildings, such as Oregon’s 1982 Portland Building, considered the first post-modern building. His collaboration with Target included designing several buildings for the company as well as a popular line of blue-accented modern housewares.
He also designed a lavish Malibu house, one of the largest on beachfront property, for former Yahoo and Warner Bros. exec Terry Semel. The three-pavilion 1992 residence is now owned by Oracle’s Larry Ellison.
Among his more recent work is Resorts World Sentosa, a large-scale theme park, hotel and casino complex off the coast of Singapore.