July 9, 1934|
Indianapolis, Indiana, US
|Died||March 12, 2015
Princeton, New Jersey, US
|Awards||AIA Gold Medal
Driehaus Architecture Prize
|Buildings||Portland Building, Denver Public Library, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts|
The oldest book I have is a treatise on architecture from the 17th century.
I used a kind of gray-green early on in my practice for painting steel, to make it look more like it had a kind of patina to it, like copper and bronze and so on. The color I used was a Benjamin Moore color called 2012. My then-young daughter started calling me 2012 – it was my nickname.
You can never draw enough or read enough – reading about architecture, in other words.
The cost is minimal, but one of the things that you want in a universal design is to make the plan as open as you can… and to still have walls around bedrooms and that sort of thing, and to keep the corridors wide enough so the wheelchair can do a 360 in the corridor.
Good design should be available to everyone – and I do mean everyone. What I spent on the wheelchair I'm in could buy a small Mercedes. It's not only unfair to me; it's unfair to someone who's indigent but has the same needs. My goal is to make all objects affordable.
When I design a building, I'm making sure you and I can get to the front door, there's enough of a threshold for entry, and that the rooms are in a logical sequence.
I see architecture not as Gropius did, as a moral venture, as truth, but as invention, in the same way that poetry or music or painting is invention.
The dialogue of architecture has been centered too long around the idea of truth.
We always correct people who say, 'You're trying to make this look better.' Well yes, we want it to look better, but that's easy. The look and the function are one and the same. They are not separate. It looks good because it functions beautifully. That message is very hard.
It was always my goal to 'up the ante' on good design, and I've devoted much of my career to this.
As a child, I was obsessed with drawing things, like Mickey and Donald. And houses. My mother was worried I'd become an artist.
On the first day I got my wheelchair, I was also given all my clothes for the next day, a little pile on the chair. I was so proud of myself for getting it all on – the socks and everything. Dressing is a struggle, and it can take up to an hour and a half.
Views are overrated; it's light that counts. I have an apartment in Miami's South Beach, and I get tired of looking at the ocean. Even that view gets old after a while. Sunlight streaming into a room – it never gets old.
In any architecture, there is an equity between the pragmatic function and the symbolic function.
Someone once told me they didn't like taking the lid off the kettle because they'd just lose it in the kitchen, so we made a kettle with an attached lid that you slide. It was in response to that that we made one that did something different.
For my first apartment, when I was first married, I went to the lumberyard and bought stuff and made couches. My then-wife made cushions. I was really very interested in furniture. I was in school for architecture, but I had to live, and making furniture was different from designing buildings, which I couldn't do for myself.
We've taken on health care in a big way in our office, ever since nine years ago when I was paralyzed. I was in eight different hospitals, three different rehab centers, and all the rooms were dreadful. As an architect, designer, and patient, I can do something to help.
I don't clean now, because I'm paralyzed. But let me tell you, I would clean. I cleaned, and I ironed. It's my inner femininity.
Instead of using the machine as a metaphor for architecture, as Le Corbusier did, I use the human body. I want the public to know that it's them I'm designing for.
In designing hardware to be used every day, it was important to keep both the human aspects and the machine in mind. What looks good also often feels good.
I believe well-designed places and objects can actually improve healing, while poor design can inhibit it.
I had been designing for Alessi and Swid Powell and Steuben and high-end people, and people always complained, 'Michael, we'd love to buy your stuff, but it's too expensive.'
I taught at Princeton for 39 years, and the school of architecture on the campus is the worst building on the campus.
I'm working on a school of architecture in China. It's rare that an architect gets to design a school of architecture, and here I get to do it. I'm so pleased that they asked me.
I grew up in a time when Eames and Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects were putting their furniture and objects on the market. You could buy some of those objects on the open market. Eames was a huge influence on all of us in school.
When I started my own practice, I was criticized, not because I was doing product design but because, like Le Corbusier, I was insisting on paintings in all of my buildings. I would paint wall murals in the houses that I designed, just as he did in the '20s and '30s.
Good design to me is both appearance and functionality together. It's the experience that makes it good design.
Form must never trump function. Some objects are made to look so smooth, you don't know where to pick them up or how to turn them on. If I'm designing a garlic press or cheese grater, I need my hand to fit comfortably on it. I like to know, instinctively, how to use it.
We use blue on the handle of the Alessi kettle. Blue is cool, so you're supposed to think that it's not hot. And the bird is red: you're supposed to think to be careful to remove the bird.
I don't care what people call me, labels have the negative value of making smaller boundaries for people.
When you do what I do, there are a lot of institutions that give you awards. I've gotten maybe 20 medals. They're glorious, and there's a spirit behind them. But sometimes they give you this dreadful modern glass thing. I wish everyone could afford a loving cup.