Architect Rafael Viñoly passes away at age 78


Architect Rafael Viñoly passes away at age 78

Rafael Viñoly (Michael Toporkoff/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5)

Rafael Viñoly died on March 2 in New York. His passing was confirmed by Argentinian police and family friend Elisa Carrió. According to El Pais Uruguay the cause of death was an aneurysm.

A celebrated architect, Viñoly designed buildings across the globe under the “belief that the essential responsibility of architecture is to elevate the public realm.”

Viñoly was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, on June 1, 1944, and he spent much of his childhood in Argentina. He graduated from the University of Buenos Aires with a Diploma in Architecture in 1968 and earned a Master of Architecture from the same university the following year. Even before earning his degree, Viñoly was practicing independently; in 1964, he was a founding partner in Estudio de Arquitectura Manteola-Petchersky-Sánchez Gómez-Santos-Solsona-Viñoly, now MSGSSV.

The architect moved his family to the United States in 1978 and settled down in New York in 1980 where he began working. He founded his eponymous firm Rafael Viñoly Architects in 1983. Today, in addition to its New York office, the firm operates from locations in Palo Alto, California; London; Manchester, United Kingdom; Abu Dhabi; and Buenos Aires.

During his illustrious career, Viñoly amassed a robust and diverse portfolio of civic buildings, office towers, and residential structures. The architect’s first commission in New York came in 1988 with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Throughout his career he continued to work on projects in his home countries of Uruguay and Argentina, as well as in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

20 Fenchurch Street
20 Fenchurch Street (Sebastian Doe/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0)

Among his notable international commissions are 20 Fenchurch Street in London, colloquially known as the Walkie-Talkie and infamous for melting cars, and a 20-story office tower for Samsung in Seoul. Viñoly also received praise for his office’s Tokyo International Forum.

His firm designed 432 Park Avenue in New York, a boxy luxury skyscraper in Manhattan that recently came under scrutiny for shoddy construction; the City College of New York, Anne and Bernard Spitzer School of Architecture, Urban Design, and Landscape building; the performance space Jazz at Lincoln Center; the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia; and the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

432 Park by Rafael Viñoly
432 Park (Courtesy 432 Park Avenue Condominiums)

Viñoly was recognized by a number of professional organizations. He was Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and a member of the Japan Institute of Architects and the Argentinian Sociedad Central de Arquitectos. He received a Medal of Honor from the American Institute of Architects New York chapter in 1995 and was a National Design Award Finalist at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in 2004.

In a 2011 article from The New York Times, Viñoly shared his love for playing classical music on the piano. “When I’m playing the piano is literally the only time I can be completely abstract and disconnected from the regular world,” he said.

Viñoly’s son Roman shared a statement online on the news of his father’s passing:

On behalf of my family, my co-workers and our many partners throughout the world, I am saddened to report that my father, the founder and namesake of our firm Rafael Viñoly Architects, passed away unexpectedly yesterday, 2nd of March, at the age of 78. He was a visionary who will be missed by all those whose lives he touched through his work.

He leaves a rich legacy of distinctive and timeless designs that manifested in some of the world’s most recognizable and iconic structures, among them the Tokyo International Forum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Carrasco Airport in Montevideo, and 20 Fenchurch Street in London. The firm’s partners and directors, many of whom have collaborated with him for decades, will extend his architectural legacy in the work we will continue to perform every day.

Vice President of Rafael Viñoly Architects Jay Bargmann,  added: “I’m incredibly proud of the integrity of the work our team has produced over many decades and on very complex projects, and I am honored and humbled by our team’s unwavering commitment during this profound time of loss.”

Carrió shared via Twitter that Viñoly is survived by his wife Diana and their three children Roman, Lucas, and Nicolás.

AN will follow this news with a longer remembrance in the weeks to come.