Archive: Architect Michael Graves talks about design and Indianapolis

The architect Michael Graves grew up on the corner of Kessler Boulevard and Indianaola Avenue.

This article was originally published on March 4, 2013.

Indianapolis-born modernist architect Michael Graves fondly remembers growing up in what he calls an “inconspicuous” craftsman’s house on the corner of Kessler Boulevard and Indianola Avenue. As a teenager, he was a newsboy for The Indianapolis Star with a penchant for drawing.

“Collecting was always the hardest part,” he recalled. “It was a huge day when someone paid me the dollar they owed me.”

The world-famous architect designed three buildings in the Indianapolis area – the colorful St. Vincent Health (formerly Thomson Consumer Electronics) building at US 31 in Carmel, the Indianapolis Art Center in Broad Ripple and the NCAA Hall of Champions in downtown.

Graves is 78 years old but wishes he were 38 because he hasn’t achieved so much. “I hate being my age,” said Graves, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a spinal cord infection in 2003.

The Princeton, NJ resident will be in town on March 28 to speak about his life and work as a guest of honor and speaker at a fundraiser for the Indianapolis Museum of Art for its contemporary design galleries. (For more information and reservations for $ 100 per person, visit or call (317) 923-1331 ext 406.)

In advance, Graves answered a few questions:

Q: What was the first thing you designed?

A: A couch for my college apartment (at the University of Cincinnati). I couldn’t afford a couch so I went to the hardware store and found legs and a platform and pillows (added) and put them together.

Q: When did you know that you “did” it?

A: I never think that way because I don’t think I’m very successful. I have time to do a lot and I don’t have the work to do. It’s very frustrating because the economic downturn has hit the architecture very hard.

Q: What are your current projects?

A: A hospital in Omaha and a number of properties for JC Penney.

Q: You designed a long line of popular home accessories such as spatulas and teapots for Target. What is your favorite?

A: I made a toaster for Target that is pretty iconic to me and I thought I would never be able to top it. Now we’ve made one for JC Penney that is just as good and just as iconic. (Graves’ relationship with Target has ended, and his JC Penney line will be in stores this month.)

Q: What will you be talking about at the IMA?

A: My own big tour (through European countries) and I’ll show some of my own drawings from that time.

Q: What do you like to do when you come to Indianapolis?

A: See my son, Adam Graveswho lives in the Northside of Indianapolis. (Graves also said he’s trying to visit at least one of his buildings.)

Q: What is your favorite building of yours?

A: My favorite is the next. … I’m proud of all three in Indianapolis.

Call star reporter Cathy Kightlinger at 317-444-6067 and follow her on Twitter @ckightlinger.