WTTW is pleased to announce the premiere of a new 30-minute documentary hosted by popular Chicago TV tour host Geoffrey Baer, profiling the life and work of acclaimed architect Michael Graves, this year's winner of the Richard H. Driehaus Prize for Classical and Traditional Architecture. The new 30-minute documentary Architect Michael Graves: A Grand Tour premieres on WTTW on Thursday, March 22 at 8 pm, and repeats Friday, March 23 at 8 pm and Saturday, March 24 at 11:30 pm.
For many, the name Michael Graves is synonymous with the playful and stylish yet affordable household products bearing his name at Target stores. His "whistling bird" Alessi teakettle and distinctive collection of small appliances, brooms, dustpans, toilet brushes and many more otherwise mundane items grace millions of American homes. But Graves is also a renowned architect who became the darling of the architecture world in the 1980s for transforming America's built environment with buildings that broke with orthodox modernism and took a sometimes whimsical approach to classical forms.
In early 2003, in the midst of his successful career, a mysterious and potentially fatal illness left him partially paralyzed. As he lay in a hospital bed wondering if he would ever walk again, he surveyed his surroundings, summoned his energy and vowed to those by his side, "I can't die here. It's too ugly."
Graves did survive. After years of painful rehab he is back at work, now in a wheelchair. His ordeal has opened an unexpected new chapter in his career -- designing hospital furniture and homes for wounded war veterans. His goal is to transform traditionally cold institutions into environments that promote healing.
In the documentary, Graves invites WTTW's cameras into his home and shares the gripping story of his illness and recovery. He also talks about his days as America's hottest architect and how the sudden decline of post-modernism affected him. And he reveals how his lifelong love of classical architecture was fostered during a two-year fellowship in Rome starting when he was 26. Others interviewed in the program include New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, international architect Peter Eisenman, noted writer Witold Rybczynski, and Graves's longtime friend the essayist Fran Lebowitz. During the program, Graves' partners take Geoffrey on a tour of his office to see how he and his team design buildings and popular products, and we hear the stories of some of Graves's iconic and controversial works, including the Portland Public Service Building from 1980, the Humana Building in Louisville from 1982, and the extraordinary Plocek House in New Jersey from 1977, arguably Graves's first full-blown foray into what later was called post-modernism.
"Visiting the Michael Graves-designed Plocek House in New Jersey was a revelation to me," said Baer. "His groundbreaking way of creating classical buildings in a modern style was widely imitated in the 1980s and 90s by lesser architects with poor results. But walking through this home, it was clear to me that whether you like the style or not, it's a work of genius," he added.
"I remember when Michael Graves' Portland Building went up in the early 1980s," said Dan Andries, who is producer and co-writer of the documentary. "It made a strong impression on me because it was unlike anything that had come before, and while that was exciting, it was also perplexing. Telling the story of someone who really did shake things up the way Graves did is quite an honor."
WTTW has also developed a robust companion website, wttw.com/graves, where viewers can explore the works of Michael Graves in images, video and text. Visitors can view a photo slideshow, watch web-exclusive video and the program in its entirety, learn about post-modernism, and trace a timeline of Graves' career.
Architect Michael Graves: A Grand Tour is produced by Daniel Andries, written by Daniel Andries and Geoffrey Baer, hosted by Geoffrey Baer, edited by Paul Thornton, camera by Matt Howe, Tim Boyd and Daniel Andries, and audio by Marc Hoppe. Associate Producer is Liz Reeves.
Geoffrey Baer is a multiple Emmy Award-winning producer and program host for WTTW in Chicago. He is best known as the host and writer of WTTW's popular feature-length specials about Chicago architecture and history including Chicago's Lakefront, Chicago by Boat: the New River Tour, Chicago's Loop: a Walking Tour, and Chicago by 'L': Touring the Neighborhoods, as well as six programs covering virtually all of Chicago's suburban areas. He took viewers on a culinary tour in The Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History, which was nominated for a coveted James Beard Award, and explored the surprising side of the city in Hidden Chicago. He then took us Biking the Boulevards, and in November 2011, his eighteenth special, Chicago's Loop: A New Walking Tour, premiered to great success. Mr. Baer also appears regularly on WTTW's flagship nightly public affairs program Chicago Tonight answering viewers' questions about Chicago architecture and history in a segment called Ask Geoffrey.
Daniel Andries has been a producer with WTTW since 2000. His work over half a decade as Series Producer of Artbeat Chicago, WTTW's weekly arts magazine series, earned a number of Emmy Awards for himself, the show, and its producers and hosts. His 2006 hour-long documentary Beauty Rises: Four Lives in the Arts won two Emmys, two Peter Lisagor Awards, and a Silver Plaque from the Chicago International Television Festival. Other work on the arts includes Remembering Ed Paschke, arts reporting for Chicago Tonight, Executive Producer for Arts Across Illinois and producer of Arts Across Illinois: CenterStage. Daniel previously worked with Geoffrey Baer as producer of Chicago by Boat: The New River Tour and The Southwest Suburbs: Birthplace of Chicago. Other credits include Out & Proud in Chicago, Irish Chicago, and DuSable to Obama: Chicago's Black Metropolis.
For more than 55 years, audiences have turned to WTTW for distinctive programming that informs, inspires, educates, and entertains. WTTW reaches 1.5 million weekly households over a four-state area, making it the most-watched public television station in America. Recognized for its award-winning local and national productions, WTTW is committed to presenting the very best in cultural, nature, science, public affairs, and children's programming across its four distinct television channels: WTTW11, WTTW Prime, its Spanish-language channel WTTW V-me, and WTTW Create, its "how-to" channel. For more information, please visit wttw.com.