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Michael Graves

Fundamentals?
1 Ottobre 2014
Il Progetto 41
1 Ottobre 2015
 

Il 12 Marzo 2015 si è spento Michel Graves, uno dei più prolifici architetti americani contemporanei e, sicuramente, uno dei più importanti esponenti del postmodernismo americano. Nato nel 1934 a Indianapolis, dopo la laurea ad Harvard visse due anni a Roma, dove fu membro dell’American Accademy of Rome. Successivamente si trasferì a Princeton dove fondò il suo studio “Michael Graves Architecture & Design” e divenne professore emerito della locale università. Negli anni ’60 fu protagonista, assieme a Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, Richard Meier, del gruppo di architetti noti come “New York Five” che presero il nome dalla mostra del 1967 al MoMA di New York. Dei cinque, però, Graves era l’unico non new yorkese, vivendo a lavorando a Princeton, nel New Jersey. Le opere dei cinque furono considerate una reinterpretazione ed una prosecuzione delle idee di Le Corbusier. Hanselman House (1967), casa realizzata per due compagni di liceo, è una delle opere più interessanti della prima produzione di Graves. Il progetto, costruito sullo schema del doppio cubo bianco con facciate su tre livelli risente in modo evidente dell’influenza del movimento moderno. Di questo periodo, riconducibile agli anni tra il 1966 e il 1981, le sue opera di maggiore interesse, come la citata Hanselman House, la Benacerraf House (1969) a Princeton, New Jersey, la sua opera migliore, la Rockefeller House (1969) a Pocantico Hills, New York, la Keeley Guest House (1972), a Princeton, la Snyderman House (1972) a Fort Wayne, Indiana, dove il neocorbusianesimo si colora di tinte pastello, la Mezzo House (1973), sempre a Princeton, dove si percepisce come l’architettura di Graves stia iniziando ad esplorare nuove strade, per giungere al celebre Fargo-Moorhead Cultural Center Bridge (1977) a Fargo, Nord Dakota e Moorhead, Minnesota e al progetto per Liberty State Park di Jersey City, New Jersey del 1980, che tanta influenza ebbe sulla mia personale ricerca architettonica da studente (fondamentale nella redazione della tesi di laurea allo IUAV) prima e da giovane architetto poi.

 

Numerosi i viaggi di studio a Princeton, e a New York, tra la fine degli anni ’80 e i primi ’90, da Graves, Meier, Gwathmey e Peter Eisenman, i grandi maestri, i riferimenti di un’intera generazione. Tuttavia, purtroppo, ben presto la sua architettura ebbe un’evoluzione che determinò l’abbandono delle forme pure e minimali del primo periodo, in favore di un’architettura colorata caratterizzata da volumi smontati e rimontati in forme sia pure ironiche e originali. Da un lato il ricorso alla storia come fonte di ispirazione, dall’altro la rilettura con gusto tutto nordamericano dell’art Decò e della Pop-Art gli permisero di sviluppare un linguaggio estremamente originale e personale applicabile a tutte le scale dell’architettura e del design. Se Polcek House (1977) e The WareHouse (1977) rappresentano una rilettura in chiave postmoderna rispettivamente del palazzo urbano Italiano e degli edifici rurali italiani è con il Portland Pubblic Services Buildings (1978-1982) che il secondo linguaggio architettonico di Graves prende definitivamente forma. L’uso di una grande varietà di materiali e colori, il ritmo e la dimensione delle finestre, l’inclusione di elementi decorativi lo rendono probabilmente il primo esempio di edificio postmoderno americano.

“...fu protagonista, assieme a Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, Richard Meier, del gruppo di architetti noti come New York Five...”

 

La produzione dell’architetto americano è stata estremamente prolifica, il suo studio ha progettato più di 400 edifici in tutto il mondo, spaziando dai grandi masterplan, alle sedi di grandi aziende, hotel e ristoranti, edifici universitari, musei teatri e biblioteche. Accanto alla produzione architettonica riveste grande importanza la sua attività di designer di oggetti. Il suo studio ha progettato più di 2000 oggetti per la casa, l’ufficio, l’uso personale. Celebre tra questi il bollitore realizzato per Alessi (1985) che è, ancora oggi, il prodotto più venduto dell’azienda italiana, un oggetto dotato, come molte delle sue architetture, di grande ironia. Tra la fine degli anni ’90 e l’inizio del ’00 Graves ottenne due importanti riconoscimenti: il National Medal of Arts del Congresso Americano e la medaglia d’oro dell’American Istitute of Architects. L’ultima parte della sua vita, caratterizzata da una paralisi causata da un’infezione del midollo spinale, lo portò ad affrontare i temi della disabilità e dell’accessibilità legate all’Architettura. Fraves divenne uno dei più autorevoli e riconosciuti progettisti di edifici per la sanità e per la salute quali ospedali, centri di recupero, case per persone con disabilità e per soldati feriti. Nel 2010 il “Center for Health Design” lo ha inserito nella lista delle 25 persone più influenti a livello mondiale in materia di design sanitario. Nel 2013 il Presidente Obama lo ha nominato nel “U.S. Access Board”.

 
Maurizio Bradaschia

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