Michael Graves died a couple of days ago and I feel a loss from it that is bigger than I expected (that is if I had thought about it at all). I think that I have only been in one building designed by Graves, the Capistrano Library. It was one of the most interesting interiors I have ever been in. As good as a Frank Lloyd Wright house and, unexpectedly, almost as completely designed, right down to the table lamps. Even more unexpected was that the library was packed on a mid-week late afternoon.
It was a soft thrill, for lack of a better way to describe the hour or so, walking through and around the building. Good architecture – which, for purposes here, I’ll define good as original, thoughtful, and appropriate to its location – influences us in a positive way. Most architecture is neutral, but Graves was anything but neutral. He designed the stuffing out of everything. I once talked to a City Planner who had worked in the Portland City Hall, one of Graves’ signature buildings, and he said that it was an almost impossible place to work and I believe him. I just not sure that I care how well it works as a machine but how well it works at enriching Portland.
Architecture, good architecture, great architecture – which isn’t always good, certainly Frank Lloyd Wright’s great building weren’t always good – has nurtured my life as long as I can remember. It is a gene, or interest, that I think I got from my Daddy, maybe when he took me to see Frank Lloyd Wright. It was one of the few things we did together and that has emphasized its importance. I don’t particularly care what style the architecture is, I love buildings from Baroque to Mid-century Modern, from the San Francisco City Hall complex to the Oakland Museum. The Capistrano Library is one of my favorite buildings, just walking around it has enriched my life, and I bet that it still enriches the community of Capistrano. That is a nice legacy.