Rafael Viñoly, an Uruguayan man with gray hair, a black jacket, with glasses speaking at a podium. He has three other sets of glasses around his neck.
Rafael Viñoly attends The Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad Groundbreaking Ceremony by Flag Luxury at NoMad on September 4, 2018 in New York City. Photo credit: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Uruguayan Architect Rafael Viñoly passes away at 78

Over Rafael Viñoly’s career, he designed several buildings now visible in many places around the world.


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Prolific Uruguayan-born architect Rafael Viñoly passed away last Thursday, March 2, at the age of 78. 

Over the course of Viñoly’s career, he turned himself into an award-winning mastermind behind a number of popular buildings, known for having his various works seen across the world.

“He was a visionary who will be missed by all those whose lives he touched through his work,” said Román Viñoly, Viñoly’s son and business partner in a statement.

“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,” he continued.

Aside from his son Román, he is survived by his wife Diana, his stepsons Nicolás and Lucas, and his brother Daniel.

Born in 1944 in Montevideo, Uruguay, Viñoly became a founding partner of Estudio de Arquitectura, a prominent Argentina-based design studio at the age of 20, according to his firm's biography. It would become one of the largest design studios in all of Latin America. 

When Viñoly arrived in the U.S. in 1978 and left behind his previous career, he would find a new home in Manhattan for his somber, comparatively restrained style of buildings. He also founded the firm, Rafael Viñoly Architects in 1983, where he served as principal and lead designer.  

His first project in the city was a 1994 athletics facility for Lehman College in the Bronx. While its front was decorated with curling steel and glass, its back was plain and unassuming. 

Architecture critic for the New York Times Herbert Muschamp would see it as a mark of Viñoly's seriousness, expressing relief at Viñoly’s restraint.

But not all of the architect's works would be as well received.

One of Viñoly’s more notable works — or perhaps notorious — include the “Walkie-Talkie” tower in London: a sky-scraper made infamous when its concave window structure redirected light and melted parts of a car parked outside.

On the other hand, one of his more recent works was the Laguna Garzón Bridge, a circular road deck and pedestrian walkway crossing over a 4,448 lagoon, designed to be both eco-friendly for the environmentally sensitive body of water.

Beyond any one building, Viñoly's legacy however, will live on across city skylines globally.

Many of his firm's partners, directors, and collaborators have stated they "will extend his architectural legacy in the work we will continue to perform every day," as said by Román.

A memorial service in New York is currently being planned, and details are expected to be released in the coming days. 


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