Robert Blaser Continues Michael Graves’ Legacy With Experiential Design Team
Robert Blaser, AIA, Principal, and Design Practice Leader at Michael Graves Architecture (MG), finds himself in the unique position of having been mentored by the firm’s namesake. (Fun fact – Blaser was an aerospace engineer prior to becoming an architect!) Drawing from more than 25 years in the industry at MG, it was recently announced that Blaser is forming an experiential design team – something Graves did himself to foster innovation and growth. The design team helps keep this legacy alive while propelling the firm toward honors that architectural heritage while encouraging evolution, marking a historic moment for all parties involved.
As an architect, Blaser is passionate about designing user experiences no matter the context. He dreams big while accounting for the smallest interior details working with owners, developers, operators, and fellow designers to turn their stories into architecture overflowing with character. And that carries over into how Blaser leads the firm as he grows Grave’s legacy through initiatives such as the experiential design team. “I like to tee up the conversation and see the various generations run with it, finding both common ground and differences that result in magical experiences,” he mentions.
The catalyst to creating the new experiential design team grew from the various hands and minds that touch a project as it makes its way through MG, from graphics to hospitality to branding expertise and more. “They’ve inspired me to look at design less formally and more emotionally,” Blaser shares. Diversity between discipline, gender, generation, and culture are all invited to the proverbial table, each adding their own takes as they pull up a chair. The graphic and brand developers who set the vibe, the story, and the magic through the reimagination of brands; interior designers who are focused on experience rather than form; and others hungry to make their mark. In other words, Blaser believes there’s no correct direction for conversation or information to flow during the creative process, it doesn’t have to be from the top down. By rethinking the development and growth of Michael Graves Architecture, his legacy of valuing imagination above style stays true to its roots.
The crux of the firm to this day remains Graves’ inimitable ability to make human connection through storytelling. While many architects are talented at conveying thought and form through their sketches, Graves was able to convey emotion, a truly unique quality to capture in 2D. “That has stuck with me, yet my approach to storytelling is with a broader, diverse team of experiential designers who explore a multi-disciplinary approach to pre-design that tries to capture the heart in the way of Michael,” Blaser says. This has had the greatest impact on him from his time learning and working with the iconic architect.
“While many in the architectural community recall his design palette and language evoking postmodernism, I see his philosophy as deeply human, experiential, and imaginative. He brought emotion, scale, and whimsy to architectural design, Blaser says of Graves’ exceptional talents. Noting that this spirit is what gave him success beyond the world of architecture, it’s now viewed as the firm’s brand. “Michael reacted to everything he believed was “stale” when he emerged on the architectural scene,” Blaser continues. “Stylistic legacy is counter to his philosophy; we aim to tell stories that touch the human heart, create experiential moments, establish places, and destinations that inspire. Michael did this so well, and it is our mission to follow in those remarkable footsteps.”
As 2024 begins and we look toward anticipated trends of the coming year, Blaser notes that he prefers ideological trends that broadly focus on nature or technology over stylistic tendencies. “My favorite industry shift is one towards immersive art that is not bound by a frame, placed on a podium, or restricted to a stage. Technology also plays a pivotal role in making art interactive and changeable. Creating opportunities like this in design is wonderful, and I truly hope to see more of it in the coming years.” We’re looking forward to what Blaser and his team dream up next.
To learn more about Robert Blaser and Michael Graves’ Architecture’s endeavors, visit michaelgraves.com.
Photography courtesy of Michael Graves Architecture and Burkard Group.