Brooklyn Museum of Art

Michael Graves’ glorious ‘prototype’ of Postmodern interior design has never been displayed.

Postmodernism is starting to get the kind of attention once reserved exclusively for high Modernism. Maybe that’s due to the fact that PoMo is always in the news. Officials in Portland are weighing the fate of the city’s most famous building, the Michael Graves-designed Portland Building, which might wind up undergoing a façadectomy. Thursday, the Chicago Tribune’s Blair Kamin called on the governor of Illinois to spare the James R. Thompson Center, designed by Helmut Jahn. At the Chicago Architecture Biennial, a panel convened to discuss the future of Postmodernism as “preservation’s new frontier.”

So you might could say that Postmodernism is on trend. Which would make a Postmodernist apartment extremely fashionable, indeed. And where else would you expect to find a retro PoMo apartment than in Brooklyn?

Michael Graves designed just such an apartment, between 1979 and 1981, for clients Susan and John Reinhold, reports the Architect’s Newspaper. But it’s no longer the Reinhold residence, or really a residence at all. The couple donated the condo they shared at 101 Central Park West on the Upper East Side to the Brooklyn Museum when they separated in 1986.

(Brooklyn Museum of Art)

The dismantled apartment project has been in the archives of the Brooklyn Museum ever since. It’s never been displayed. It’s a shame—and not just because a project like this could potentially travel to institutions that would like to exhibit it. It’s just sitting there, waiting for me to live in it. It should be shown for many reasons, not least of which being that it occupies a small but interesting place in the career arc of the architect, who died earlier this year.

Ian Volner, an architecture journalist who is writing a biography on Michael Graves for the Princeton Architectural Press, says that Graves had already split from the New York Five by the time of the Reinhold commission. It came right on the heels of one of the architect’s most significant projects, the Fargo-Moorhead Cultural Center and Bridge.

“The Fargo Moorhead Bridge commission—which Michael Graves started working on in 1976—that was the big moment, in a lot of ways, the first of his experiments with what we'd now recognize as PoMo design,” Volner says. “The apartment then comes right after, but just before he did this experimental interior for Interior Design—they asked him to produce the ‘prototypical PoMo apartment’—which ended up being his most widely publicized interior to date. So here you have, possibly, the prototype of a prototype.”

The Fargo Moorhead Cultural Center and Bridge was never meant to be, of course. And the Portland Building could still come down, as hard as that is to imagine. That hasn’t stopped architects and architecture fans from crushing hard on Graves and Postmodernism. If the Brooklyn Museum can’t make use of an interior design by Graves, I’d be happy to find a home for it. (Or in it.)

(Brooklyn Museum of Art)
(Brooklyn Museum of Art)
(Brooklyn Museum of Art)
(Brooklyn Museum of Art)
(Brooklyn Museum of Art)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A map of apartment searches in the U.S.
    Maps

    Where America’s Renters Want to Move Next

    A new report that tracks apartment searches between U.S. cities reveals the moving aspirations of a certain set of renters.

  2. a photo of yellow vest protesters in Paris, France.
    Equity

    To Understand American Political Anger, Look to ‘Peripheral France’

    French geographer Christophe Guilluy has a controversial diagnosis of working-class resentment in the age of Trump, Brexit, and the Yellow Vests.

  3. A man walks by an abandoned home in Youngstown, Ohio
    Life

    How Some Shrinking Cities Are Still Prospering

    A study finds that some shrinking cities are prosperous areas with smaller, more-educated populations. But they also have greater levels of income inequality.

  4. A rendering of a co-living building in San Jose.
    Life

    The Largest Co-Living Building in the World Is Coming to San Jose

    The startup Starcity plans to build an 800-unit, 18-story “dorm for adults” to help affordably house Silicon Valley’s booming workforce.

  5. a screenshot of a video about Baltimore's Metro
    Transportation

    It’s Time to Celebrate Baltimore’s Much-Maligned Metro

    In 1987, the Maryland Transit Administration busted out a brass band to open a subway that never had a chance.

×