Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

"History does change perception."

In the centre of the first wall of chronology in the new exhibition Michael Graves: Past as Prologue is a little shelf. On that shelf rests a cookie tin decorated to look like his Portland Building (1982). The proportions seem a little off, since the tin is taller than it is wide. In my mind, the Portland Building is a perfect cube, closer to its foreshortened appearance from the sidewalk, and closer to the penciled yellow-trace drawings of facades that were my first introduction to Graves’s work.

In my memory these facade drawings are all squares, made up of triangles and half-rounds, chunky columns and square windows, ideal for transformation into an animated gif of architectural design as an exercise in two-dimensional composition. When Graves took on the Whitney Museum, in 1985, he tried to make Marcel Breuer’s facade into one of those bits, stubbornly stuck in the lower left-hand corner of his pile. But Breuer’s building resists the cookie tin. It would probably tip over. It would look dull on a shelf. While Graves suggests biscotti, Breuer doesn’t seem like a sweet.