Business of Design

Paralyzed Michael Graves Designs From Patient Perspective

The "Patriot" house designed by Michael Graves.
Source: Michael Graves & Associates

Anyone who has spent time in a wheelchair may have a lot of ideas about what's wrong with the design of the wheelchair. When architect Michael Graves realized he would likely spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair, he resolved to do something about it.

Stryker this week will roll out a Michael Graves' designed wheelchair, the Prime TC, that aims to increase comfort for the patient and caregiver, improve safety and cut costs for hospitals.

"It's a game changer," Graves said in an interview Thursday with CNBC while in New York to attend the launch of his home goods line for JC Penney.

This is the second phase of Graves' collaboration with Stryker, which in 2009 introduced to hospitals a line of products for the patient room designed from the patient's perspective. Once again, the patient in question is Graves.

Although Graves had previously designed a section of a hospital in Tallahassee, Fla., he hadn't experienced medical design from the other side until 2003 when an unknown infection rapidly spread to his spinal cord and left him paralyzed.

"After eight hospitals and four rehab centers, I realized the sad truth is that (hospital design) is so bad and that I'm a designer and I could do something about it," he said.

Graves, a postmodernist American architect affiliated with the New York Five, has designed the Disney headquarters in Burbank, Calif.; the Portland Municipal Services Building in Oregon; and dozens others. His consumer goods have been made by Alessi, Target and most recently JC Penney, including his teapot that accidentally looks like a cartoonish silhouette of Hitler.

(Read More: Hitler's Teapot Stirs Up Strong Sales for JC Penney)

The Prime TC is only the latest of his medically focused launches.

"We want to do everything," he said. And Graves means everything. That means everything from crutches and canes to hospitals and homes.

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