Rafael Viñoly
courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects Rafael Viñoly

Famed for his iconic supertalls and Modernist urban architecture, the Uruguayan-born architect Rafael Viñoly, FAIA, has died unexpectedly at the age of 78. Viñoly, the founder of his namesake New York firm Rafael Viñoly Architects, passed away in New York following an aneurysm.

"He was a visionary who will be missed by all those whose lives he touched through his work," said Román Viñoly, Rafael Viñoly's son and director at Rafael Viñoly Architects, in a statement published on the firm's website. "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."

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1944, Viñoly studied architecture at the University of Buenos Aires, earning his diploma in architecture in 1968 and his M.Arch. in 1969. Viñoly founded his own successful practice in Buenos Aires before relocating to New York in 1979 and launching Rafael Viñoly Architects in 1983. Since the firm completed the City College of New York John Jay College of Criminal Justice, its first major commission, in 1988, the practice has thrived, opening studios in London, Manchester, Abu Dhabi, Buenos Aires, Chicago, and Palo Alto, Calif. In 2009, ARCHITECT recognized Rafael Viñoly Architects in its Architect 50 program for the firm's thoughtful "balance between firmness, commodity, and delight," wrote Anne Guiney.

277 Fifth Avenue in New York

“The pendulum swing between architects seeing themselves as artists or as technicians exacts a high price on the profession,” Viñoly told ARCHITECT. “Architects do architecture, which is a very complex thing in itself.”

Under Viñoly's leadership, Rafael Viñoly Architects completed celebrated projects around the world including 277 Fifth Avenue in New York; the The New Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto; the Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp in East Hanover, N.J.; and 20 Fenchurch in London, which garnered a certain level of infamy due to its car-melting abilities. Viñoly also designed a small number of private residences, including 191 Ridgebury Road in Connecticut.

191 Ridgeport Road by Rafael Viñoly
Andre Aragon 191 Ridgeport Road by Rafael Viñoly

"I’m incredibly proud of the integrity of the work our team has produced over many decades and on very complex projects, and I am honored and humbled by our team’s unwavering commitment during this profound time of loss," said Jay Bargmann, FAIA, vice president of Rafael Viñoly Architects, in the statement from the firm.

A memorial service is being planned to celebrate Viñoly's life, but members of the design community have already taken to social media to mourn his passing.