In memoriam: Rafael Viñoly (1944 – 2023)

Rafael Viñoly, architect of 432 Park Avenue and London’s ‘Walkie Talkie’, has died in New York aged 78

Rafael Viñoly
Rafael Viñoly in a still from a 2013 film produced for Wallpaper*, where the architect talked about his ongoing, at the time, 432 Park Avenue project
(Image credit: Film by Jason Schmidt)

Rafael Viñoly has died in New York aged 78, leaving behind a rich legacy of projects that dot the planet. In his long career, the celebrated architect and mastermind of landmark schemes, such as New York's 432 Park Avenue, one of the world's most distinguished, elegant supertalls, worked tirelessly in his home country of Uruguay, his adopted home in the USA, and beyond. His portfolio consists of a slew of high-profile designs that made his namesake studio one of the most instantly recognisable in the field. 

432 Park Avenue, designed by Rafael Viñoly, New York

432 Park Avenue

(Image credit: Image: dbox for CIM Group & Macklowe Properties)

The life and work of Rafael Viñoly

Since 1964, when he helped found South America's influential practice Estudio de Arquitectura aged only 20, the Uruguay-born, New York-based architect has been creating distinguished work, including cultural institutions (beginning with the 1996 Tokyo International Forum), and medical research facilities (the 2010 Dolby Regeneration Medical Building in San Francisco is a stand-out). He also has a raft of masterplans to his name, including Bonds Cay, a privately owned island in the Bahamas. In all his work, Viñoly remained steadfast in his pursuit of intelligence over cool, the timeless and the true over the trendy. He was also a judge in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2012. 

432 Park Avenue, designed by Rafael Viñoly, New York

432 Park Avenue

(Image credit: Image: dbox for CIM Group & Macklowe Properties)

His son, Román Viñoly, said in a statement on the passing of his father and collaborator: ‘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. He was a visionary who will be missed by all those whose lives he touched through his work.

‘He leaves a rich legacy of distinctive and timeless designs that manifested in some of the world’s most recognisable 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.’

Glass tower

On New York’s Hudson River waterfront, pictured centre, is Three Waterline Square by Rafael Viñoly Architects

(Image credit: Noe Associates with The Boundary)

London-based Christina Seilern, principal of Studio Seilern Architects, worked extensively with the architect as founding director of Viñoly's London office. She has said, in a statement on social media: 'Rafael Viñoly was my mentor, collaborator, and one of my dearest friends. He possessed incredible generosity of thought, with a creative spirit that inspired a generation of architects. I am honoured to have been witness to his electric energy, his endearing humour, his elegance, and his genius.

'Early in my career, he said to me: “You have a wonderful future because you have a wonderful past, and you will continue to build on it, as an architect, a companion, a friend and a mother. I will watch you become the great and successful architect you hope because you just can't help but being one.” He was an unfailing friend – he gave me great courage and for that I am forever grateful. He leaves an immeasurable hole, and will be so deeply missed – my most sincere condolences to Diana, Roman, the family, and the RVA team.'

The Uruguay-born, New York-based architect Rafael Viñoly is behind a striking new ring-shaped bridge on the Garzón lagoon in Uruguay

Viñoly's ring-shaped bridge on the Garzón lagoon in Uruguay

(Image credit: Rafael Viñoly) 

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).