- Associated Press - Saturday, July 2, 2016

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) - Kean University will buy three properties in Princeton owned by the late Michael Graves, including his studio and residence, for use by the school’s budding architecture program that bears the name of the renowned architect.

Well-heeled Princeton University, where Graves taught for decades, turned down the bequest of the properties on Patton Avenue in Graves’ will, saying it couldn’t meet the “terms and conditions” of the gift.

But Kean, a state university where budgets are tight, was enthusiastic about the acquisition nearly 40 miles from its campus in Union, The Record reported (http://bit.ly/29dSDjD).

“Michael Graves was a good friend to Kean University,” President Dawood Farahi, said in a press release issued by the school. “His home, The Warehouse, where he lived and worked, will provide our students with access to the thinking, the inspiration and internal processes of one of the most visionary and prolific architects of our time.”

Kean trustees authorized the $20 purchase earlier this week of The Warehouse, so-called for its one-time use, an adjacent residence and a storage house. The administration estimates that it will cost between $30,000 and $40,000 annually to maintain the properties, which it says have been appraised for nearly $3.2 million.

Kean also plans to undertake about $300,000 in renovations, and discussions are underway about obtaining the contents of the buildings from the estate.

Kean said it plans to develop an education-research center for architecture and design at The Warehouse, which will give students and the public a window on how Graves worked.

The architect, who died last year at age 80, designed more than 350 buildings around the world, and his postmodern aesthetic reached into thousands, if not millions, of homes because of his work designing everyday household items, like teapots, that were mass produced.

Under Farahi’s leadership, Kean hasn’t been afraid to stray far afield from its home base or the traditional mission of a publicly funded state college. Kean has campuses now in Ocean County and Wenzhou, China.

Critics have faulted the president for spending on “vanity” projects, including the architecture program itself, which opened last year despite initial objections that it was duplicative of another public program only six miles away at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.

“The Farahi administration’s continued spending binge on unnecessary real estate and vanity projects comes at the expense of the hiring of full-time faculty, professional academic advisers, and other key student support staff, who are truly necessary for providing a quality education to our students,” said James Castiglione, who heads the faculty union.

Castiglione said full-time faculty has been nearly halved since 2005 and noted that trustees also approved a 2.5 percent tuition hike at the school during the meeting at which they signed on to the expenses in Princeton. Kean has many lower-income students.

Discussions and salons would be hosted at The Warehouse, which, ideally would also be open to the public and become something of an architectural museum, said David Mohney, dean of the Michael Graves College of public architecture and design at Kean. Architecture students from other schools and other countries would be drawn to the site, he said.

“I hope it can be something special and an important part of Michael Graves’ legacy,” said Mohney. “People can see where he lived and worked.”

The 19-student inaugural class of the architecture school just wrapped up its first year and 35 more students will be admitted next year, said Mohney. He said it is the most diverse architecture school in the nation with a student body that is equal parts black, Latino and white.

Kean said Graves had been a “guiding force” in the school, which has been approved to start offering its first master’s program in 2019.

Kean officials said details are still being worked out involving the takeover of the properties, which are adjacent to Princeton University, where Graves was a professor for 39 years.

Princeton would not elaborate on why it declined Graves’ gift, issuing only a terse statement: “We were grateful to be able to consider the possibility of accepting Michael Graves’s properties, but concluded that we could not meet the terms and conditions associated with the gift.”

Mohney said Graves would have wanted the character of the house, including its contents, to be maintained and used for educational purposes.

“I hope we can use it in a way that Michael would be proud of,” he said.

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Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com

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