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Michael Graves, designed Atlanta buildings, products for Target, dies

Popular architect and designer Michael Graves, who drew up two high-profile Atlanta buildings while compiling a large body of work, but who got late-in-life notice in the mass market with products he styled for Target stores, died Thursday at 80.

Graves left his mark here in the Michael C. Carlos Museum on the Emory University campus, and in the office building 10 Peachtree Place, the Midtown headquarters for AGL Resources.

The latter is notable for its polished red granite exterior and 30-foot-high arch. The Michael C. Carlos is a renovation and, later, an expansion of a nearly century-old school building.

Graves won wide marketplace awareness with his whistling Alessi teakettles and stainless steel colanders sold at Target and other stores, but he first became known for his work in postmodern architecture.

He was a “giant” of the period, a time “when architects around the 1980s looked back to European design precedence,” admirer Pauline Saliga, the director of the Society of Architectural Historians, told the Associated Press. “They kind of rejected the sterility of modernism. They were looking for other design inspirations.”

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Graves designed buildings all over the world. But his most famous may be the Portland Building, the city administrative building in Portland, Ore., and The Humana Building, a skyscraper in Louisville, Ky.

Chicago-based architect Stanley Tigerman, a contemporary and friend, called Graves one of the best-known postmodernists.

“He brought back imagery and symbolism,” Tigerman told the AP.

Graves’ buildings use a variety of colors and shapes and have sometimes eccentric juts in and out, like Lego creations.

President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts in 1999, and the American Institute of Architects gave him its gold medal, the highest award for an architect, in 2001.

He was not always praised, however. The Portland Building, for instance, drew considerable criticism for what critics consider garish looks and for its lack of functionality.

On a mass commercial scale, besides his work for Target, Graves did a line for JCPenney, bringing him into the kitchens and bathrooms of millions of homes.

Graves’ Alessi kettle, featuring a spout with a bird that sings when the water boils, is part of a series of popular Alessi-style items, including pitchers and kitchen timers.

In 2003, Graves was paralyzed from the waist down from an infection. He used a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He died of natural causes at his home in Princeton, N.J., a spokeswoman said.

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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