Rafael Viñoly, renowned NYC architect, dies at 78

March 6, 2023

Photo © Rafael Viñoly Architects

World-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly, known in New York City for his work on many commercial and landmark buildings, passed away last week in his Manhattan home at the age of 78. The modernist designer, best known to many New Yorkers for his work on the controversial 432 Park Avenue condo tower, succumbed to a brain aneurysm, according to the New York Times.

432 Park Avenue, image via WikiCommons

Born in Uruguay in 1944, Viñoly studied architecture in Argentina at the University of Buenos Aires. Before graduating, he had already started Estudio de Arquitectura Manteola-Petchersky-Sánchez Gómez-Santos-Solsona-Viñoly, a firm that eventually designed buildings throughout South America.

In 1978, Viñoly acquired a teaching position at Harvard University in order to escape persecution at the hands of Argentina’s militant government that had taken power in 1976. Viñoly and his family moved to New York in 1979 and established his design firm, Rafael Viñoly Architects, in 1983.

Over the course of his lengthy career, Viñoly became one of the only architects to have designed a building in all five city boroughs. His first project in NYC was reshaping an old, dilapidated high school into the new John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a design noteworthy for its use of cascading glass. The use of glass became a defining feature of Viñoly’s work.

In New York City, Viñoly may be best known for designing 432 Park Avenue, the 1,400-foot-tall condo tower along Central Park South once ranked as the tallest residential building in the world. Many of the tower’s residents ended up complaining about engineering and construction problems, including leaky plumbing and defective elevators, documented extensively in a 2021 New York Times article.

Some of his other NYC projects include the conversion of an old library into the City College of New York’s Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture, a new design for the Queens Museum of Art, and his design of the home for Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The esteemed architect worked on many projects throughout the United States, including a stadium at Princeton University, a new building for Chicago’s Booth School of Business that featured a striking glass atrium, and convention centers in Pittsburgh and Boston.

“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,” Román Viñoly, the late architect’s son and a director at the family’s firm, said in a statement. “He was a visionary who will be missed by all those whose lives he touched through his work.”

Román Viñoly added: “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.”

Viñoly was said to be working on a renovation of the San Rafael Hotel in Punta del Este, Uruguay at the time of his death, according to Archinect. He also designed the recently opened The Ritz-Carlton New York, Nomad and the under-construction tower at 125 Greenwich Street.

Viñoly is survived by his son Roman, his wife Diana, his stepsons Nicolas and Lucas, a granddaughter, and three step-grandchildren.


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