Rafael Viñoly, Global Architect of Landmark Buildings, dies at the age of 78

Rafael Viñoly, a Uruguayan-born architect whose New York-based practice was responsible for major commercial and cultural buildings in nearly a dozen countries, died Thursday in Manhattan. He was 78.

His death in a hospital was caused by an aneurysm, according to his son Roman, who is a director of the company.

Mr. Viñoly was not known for any particular style, but he did have a penchant for enclosing large spaces with glass and creating luminous courtyards.

In New York, he was perhaps best known for 432 Park Avenue, a residential tower that briefly became the tallest residential building in the world at nearly 1,400 feet. Its gridded exterior has been praised by critics for its understated elegance.

But local residents, some of whom have paid tens of millions of dollars for their homes, have complained of creaking, banging and clicking noises and a garbage chute “that sounds like a bomb,” one said, when the garbage comes down. The building’s swaying left one resident trapped in an elevator for more than an hour. The troubles have fueled a slew of reports, including a front-page New York Times one, about the struggles of owning such super-luxe homes.

Mr. Viñoly was simultaneously a 24-7 architecture geek and bon vivant, employing a chef studying at the Cordon Bleu. He wore several black-rimmed glasses around his neck to always have the right pair of glasses with him and was ready to sketch the most mysterious architectural details.

He was also a classically trained pianist, giving concerts in a bandstand on his property in Water Mill, NY on Eastern Long Island. In 2011 he told the Times that he owned nine pianos, including one he helped developwith a curved keyboard that makes the highest and lowest notes easier to reach.

“Not many people thought the piano needed to be reinvented,” said architect David Rockwell, who worked with Mr. Viñoly on several projects. “He was insatiably curious.”

After the World Trade Center towers were destroyed in 2001, Mr. Viñoly and architect Frederic Schwartz helped form the Think Team, which took an innovative approach to restoring the 16-acre Ground Zero. His main proposal was to build a new pair of twin towers as skeletons, huge filigree structures into which cultural buildings would be inserted over time.

The proposal was the first choice of the committee convened to select a plan to rebuild the World Trade Center, but its decision was overturned by Gov. George E. Pataki, who chose a plan by Daniel Libeskind.

In New York, Mr. Viñoly was responsible for jazz’s chic Lincoln Center home overlooking Columbus Circle and the conversion of a historic high school into the campus of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

His other US projects included a football stadium at Princeton University. In Philadelphia, be Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts placed several auditoriums under a huge, domed glass roof. He designed a major expansion of the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Pittsburgh and Boston Convention Centers.

His building for the State School of Business at the University of Chicago includes a huge glass atrium and a nearly floor-to-ceiling roof, facing Frank Lloyd Wright’s low-rise Frederick C. Robie House.

His most famous building was the Tokyo International Forum, a convention center partially resembling an inverted ship under glass. When it opened in 1997, Herbert Muschamp, the Times architecture critic at the time, called it “clear, holistic and utterly uncomplicated qualities that have not been very popular in architecture for some time”.

Rafael Viñoly was born in Montevideo on June 1, 1944 Roman Vinoly Barreto, a film and theater director, and Maria Beceiro, a mathematics teacher. He studied architecture at the University of Buenos Aires, but before graduating he had founded one of the largest architectural offices in Argentina. In 1978 he received a teaching position at Harvard and moved to the United States with his family.

The following year they settled in New York, where he founded Rafael Viñoly Architects 1983

In addition to his son, survivors include Mr Viñoly’s wife Diana, an interior designer; his stepsons Nicolas and Lucas Michael; one granddaughter and three step-grandchildren.

A full obituary will follow.

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/03/arts/design/rafael-vinoly-dead.html Rafael Viñoly, Global Architect of Landmark Buildings, dies at the age of 78


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