Mar 13, 2015

O'Grady Library Architect Passes Away at 80

Today, we at Saint Martin's University, and the O'grady Library in particular, express thanks to the building's architect, Michael Graves who passed away last night in his Princeton, New Jersey home.

Portrait of Michael Graves used by permission of Michael Graves Architecture & Design

Mr. Graves was a world renowned architect and designer, whose clients included Disney, Target, the NCAA, the US Postal Service, Humana Health, Princeton University, Columbia University, the Universities of Virginia and Cincinnati, the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, numerous art foundations, and many others.

Photograph of the O'Grady Library, taken this morning.

1994 sketch of the O'Grady Library from Special Collections, thanks to Father Peter Tynan.

Mr. Graves seemed to have had an affinity for libraries.  Besides the O'Grady Library, he played a roll designing the San Juan Capistrano Library in California, the Clark County Library and Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Denver Public Library, the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in Topeka, KS, the American Academy in Rome Rare Books Library, the Charles E. Beatley, Jr. Central Library in Alexandria, VA, and the French Institute Library in New York.

Graves was a pioneer of post-modern architecture in the United States, a movement that seeks to combine elements of "high-brow" modern design with functionality and aesthetic pleasure.  He had a profound sense and belief that buildings need to be consciously designed for human use.  In a 2010 interview with, he said that architecture must proceed from an "understanding of humanism as it relates to our bodies and our psyche when we occupy our buildings" and is part of a "story that we [architects] tell from the myths and rituals of human activity for the past three or four thousand years."1

In a related vein, he lamented that contemporary architecture may have lost something through becoming more and more driven by computer design.  In a 2012 New York Times column, entitled "Architecture and the Lost Art of Drawing," Graves pointed out that the original meaning of "digits" was fingers, but that we now associate the adjective "digital" almost exclusively with computers and then wondered, "Are our hands becoming obsolete as creative tools?  Are they being replaced by machines?  And where does that leave the architectural creative process?"2  He went on to say that the very act of drawing versus computer rendering embodies a "certain joy in...creation" and is "formative," comparing it to the "way a musician might intone a note or how a riff in jazz would be understood subliminally and put a smile on your face."

Graves will be sorely missed by his associates.  Donald Strum, a long-time employee and Principal of Product Design at Michael Graves Architecture and Design, said,  "I really like my 'kind of family.'  Have for some time.  Will miss my design dad."3

On a personal note, I (Kael Moffat) would like to express my gratitude for Mr. Graves and his gifts. I have benefited from two of his projects.  I currently work in the O'Grady Library, but also spent many happy hours in the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library when I lived in Topeka, Kansas.  Whenever I think of reading books with my children or walking up and down the circular staircase in its rotunda, I will be thankful to the designer of that space.

1  (2010)  "AD interviews Michael Graves: What is architecture?"
2 Graves, M.  (2012, Sep. 02).  Architecture and the lost art of drawing.  New York Times.  Retrieved from
3  From a phone interview with Sal Forgione of Michael Graves Architecture and Design, 13 March 2015.

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