Rafael Viñoly, Architect
Rafael Viñoly’s forty-five years of architectural practice in the United States, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East have been consistently driven by the belief that the essential responsibility of architecture is to elevate the public realm. As in his much-publicized proposal for the World Trade Center site, his deepest focus has been on maximizing the opportunity for civic investment generated by every construction project.
Viñoly was born in Uruguay in 1944, and, by the age of twenty, he was a founding partner of Estudio de Arquitectura, which would become one of the largest design studios in Latin America. His celebrated early work transformed the landscape of Argentina, where this practice was based. In 1978, Viñoly moved to the United States. After briefly serving as a guest lecturer at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, he settled in New York in 1979.
In 1983, Viñoly founded Rafael Viñoly Architects PC, a New York-based firm that has grown to encompass offices in London and Los Angeles. Through this highly developed entity, Viñoly has completed many critically acclaimed civic projects as well as private and institutional commissions. His first major New York project was the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which was completed in 1988. In 1989, he won an open international competition to design the Tokyo International Forum, the largest and most important cultural complex in Japan. Completed in 1996, this design secured Viñoly’s reputation as an architect of great imagination and immense professional rigor with a proven capacity to create beloved civic and cultural spaces. The opening of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia in 2001 marked a similar success in the United States. The building prompted other seminal commissions including Jazz at Lincoln Center (New York), the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (Pittsburgh), and the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, all of which resulted in iconic civic gathering spaces in their respective cities.
Viñoly’s work is marked by a sustained structural originality that transcends the passing fads of architectural movements. At home with both large and small-scale projects, his recent work ranges from university buildings such as the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, to leading-edge biomedical and nanosystems research facilities such as the University of California, Los Angeles, California NanoSystems Institute; the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Janelia Farm Research Campus in Virginia; and the John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His work also encompasses courthouses, private residences, athletic facilities, and additional performing arts venues such as Curve, a theater and performing arts center in Leicester, England. Viñoly’s museum projects include an expansion for the Cleveland Museum of Art, one of the nation’s leading cultural institutions, along with the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Bringing to life his belief that the architectural profession should return to the discipline itself more of what is learned through designing and constructing buildings, Vinoly instituted the Rafael Viñoly Architects Training and Research Programs. Led by Viñoly and his colleagues, the tuition-free Training Program helps students develop the operational and intellectual instruments that form the basis of architectural practice, while the Research Program offers an annual fellowship of three to twelve months to support original research that advances the craft and practice of architecture. In recognition of the firm's 25th anniversary this year, the 2008 program will be extended to up to five traveling grant fellowships with a research focus on transformations in the built environment within dynamically changing societies.
In addition to his professional dedication and his many successes in competitions—including a University of Oxford master plan, completed in 2006—Viñoly’s work has been recognized in the world’s leading design publications and by numerous awards of excellence. Viñoly became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1993 and is a member of the Japan Institute of Architects. In 2006, he was named an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. He lectures widely in the United States and abroad.