It is somewhat fitting that someone who receives an award for lifetime achievement says he’s got more work to do. That was the sentiment expressed by the legendary architect Michael Graves as he accepted Contract’s magazine’s Legend Award last Friday at the publication’s annual design awards breakfast held at New York’s Cipriani restaurant. No sooner than he took the stage, Graves let us in on what he has been up to, including designing a new line of products for retailer J. C. Penny that will launch early this year.
While the deal between Penny’s and Graves has long been known it wasn’t until last Friday that anyone got a peek at the new line, which includes over 300 products to be housed in ‘shops-in-shops’ in 700 J.C. Penny stores located throughout the U.S. The always gracious Graves gave one of the products, a silver picture frame that can be positioned both horizontally or vertically, to all who attended the event. Like much of Graves work, it is classically inspired .
In addition to the Penny’s collaboration, the energetic, 78 year young architect expressed that he has a newfound passion designing for people like himself, who are wheelchair bound or dealing with debilitating and challenging health issues. Readers will recall that Graves’ world was turned upside down in 2003 when he developed an infection that left him paralyzed from the waist down. But he quickly turned that tragic experience into a positive, applying his talents to such things as designing accessible housing for wounded war veterans and a new line of products for Stryker medical. As Graves said at the event, “I am not only an architect I am also a patient”.
It is from the perspective of a patient that Graves is approaching his work afresh and scooping high profile commissions in the healthcare market, a a sector, where prior to his injury, his voice was all but absent. The goal says Graves is “to create a more humane and dignified environment for people dealing with challenges”. And of course beauty is high on the list.