I met Rafael Viñoly in 1980 when I had recently arrived in New York City, he recently from Uruguay. When he was working on the Tokyo Forum competition, he invited me for critical reviews in his office in the Louis Sullivan Bayard Building at 65 Bleeker Street. Rafael’s deep dedication to architecture was evident in his choice for an office space in the only Louis Sullivan architecture in New York at 65 Bleeker Street, built in 1899. (He won the Tokyo Competition realizing a great public work.)
If I remember correctly, his office took up a whole floor and contained a central piano. Rafael was a very accomplished pianist—rare in a successful architect. Music and architecture, as he knew, are deeply connected by mathematics, proportion, time, rhythm and sequence. Unlike sculpture or painting which you can turn away from, music and architecture are immersive—they surround us.
Over the years as I continued to teach architecture at Columbia University, I would occasionally ask Rafael to come to critique the students. Alas, he was almost always too busy at his office. The last time I saw Rafael was at a Carnegie Hall concert by Yuaa Wang. She played alone on stage, an astonishing piano virtuoso. At the break, I met Rafael.
His mesmerizingly charming smile framed by his idiosyncratic three sets of glasses—one on, one up, and one hanging—radiated good humor and charm which is why we all loved this architect who we will greatly miss.
Steven Holl, FAIA