America’s most prominent postmodern architect, Michael Graves participated in Memphis only briefly in its first year, but in that time produced one of the greatest designs of the 1980s. In the Plaza vanity, influences from Art Deco and old Hollywood are combined to glamorous effect. Though the piece is named for a famous New York hotel at the corner of Central Park, it also has the stepped profile of a skyscraper.
As with many Memphis designs, the vanity looks extremely luxurious but is actually made of inexpensive materials – maple veneer over medium-density fiberboard (MDF), mirrored glass, and paint. The many small bulbs evoke a starry night in Manhattan and are also functional, bathing the user’s face in an even light.
Graves had not completed any postmodern buildings yet when he collaborated with Memphis. The style he developed for the Plaza and other furniture for the group became fundamental to his architecture, though, and he revisited it many times in the 1980s, including in the Swan and Dolphin Hotels at Disney World.