Rafael Viñoly talks personal taste: Part Two

The Uruguayan architect concludes his compendium of likes with Issey Miyake, Rembrandt and Florence’s rich concentration of art

Rafael Viñoly at his home in New York
Rafael Viñoly at his home in New York | Image: Weston Wells

My style icon is Issey Miyake. I have always admired this man: he is handsome and his work is consistent and rigorous. His clothing is extraordinarily simple and elegant, though it is secondary to his friendly demeanour. To me he embodies style in every sense of the word.

A city that inspires me is New York. I love the proportions of the wide avenues and the canyons the skyscrapers create. The construction, infrastructure and sheer energy of the city amazes me every day.

Issey Miyake
Issey Miyake | Image: Getty Images

An indulgence I would never forgo is time to draw by myself; I take Moleskine sketchbooks everywhere I go. I use a lot of pens and pencils, but my favourites are Mitsubishi brush pens. They make beautiful lines and I’m not sure what I am going to do when my last set runs out of ink. £11; www.moleskine.com.

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is the Napa Valley and Sonoma in California. The landscape is completely unforgettable. I love how geometric it looks, with vineyards carving up the rolling hills. I spent an entire day driving through it and enjoyed a spectacular meal at The French Laundry in Yountville. The French Laundry, 6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599 (+1707-944 2380; www.thomaskeller.com).


The best gift I’ve given recently was a piano, to my sister living in South America. I chose a Bechstein B Grand 190 and I think it was a complete surprise. www.bechstein.com.

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Rembrandt. I love everything about his work, but especially the knowledge and soul behind every drawing, painting and etching. He was a realist who had great empathy for the human condition. I have a book – Rembrandt: The Late Works – that explores the Dutch artist’s style and I have reread it 10 times.  

Viñoly’s Moleskine sketchbook and Mitsubishi brush pen
Viñoly’s Moleskine sketchbook and Mitsubishi brush pen | Image: Weston Wells

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Maldonado in Punta del Este, Uruguay. I love outdoor markets and Feria Artesanal is a wonderful place for handmade Uruguayan textiles and baskets that you buy directly from the maker. For authentic gaucho gear like leather boots and woven belts I like the family-run Talabartería Benítez in San Carlos, while the aptly named White Box in La Barra has a great selection of midcentury modern furniture. Feria Artesanal, Plaza Artigas, Avenida Gorlero, Punta del Este. Talabartería Benítez, 25 de Agosto y Sarandi, San Carlos (+598-4266 9347). White Box, Route 10, La Barra.

The books on my bedside table include The Collected Shorter Plays by Samuel Beckett and the biography Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph by Jan Swafford, which paints a clear picture of the composer, his influences and his iconic work. I am also reading Goya by Robert Hughes, a book that provides an illuminating look at the Spanish artist and the wars that shaped his painting.

Maldonado in Punta del Este, Uruguay
Maldonado in Punta del Este, Uruguay | Image: Getty Images/Moment RM

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Mezzogiorno in New York’s SoHo, where I loved the homey food and warm atmosphere. They made pasta with black olives for me and it was absolutely delicious. There was no drinking though because, while I love red wine, I can only drink Haut Médoc without getting a terrible headache. The perfect end to the dinner was a delicious tiramisu – always my favourite dessert. Another memorable meal was at Parador La Huella, on the beach in Uruguay – the spectacular atmosphere only enhanced the signature la bomba dessert, which is the ultimate dulce de leche treat. Mezzogiorno, 195 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012 (+1212-334 2112; www.mezzogiorno.com). ParadorLa Huella, Calle de Los Cisnes, José Ignacio 20402, Uruguay (+598-4486 2279; www.paradorlahuella.com).

The last music I downloaded was seven different versions of Chopin’s Berceuse in B Flat. I bought recordings by Dinu Lipatti, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Maurizio Pollini, among others. I like to play these seven- to eight-minute pieces one after the other so as to hear the subtle differences and nuances. Each one is extraordinary and I don’t have a clear favourite.

Mezzogiorno restaurant, New York
Mezzogiorno restaurant, New York

In my fridge you’ll always find apples, lemons, milk for my morning coffee and tea and the Activia yogurt I have for breakfast every day. I prefer to eat most of my meals at home and our wonderful Brazilian chef Alex always keeps the fridge fully stocked.

The people I rely on for personal grooming and style include Nori, my barber at Non Project on the Lower East Side, who has been cutting my hair for many years. His little, spare shop is a wonderful place full of the small sculptures he makes, as well as his incredible ethnic music collection. Then there’s Ileana Adamos, my personal trainer for the past 20 years. She comes to my home at 6am several mornings a week and is the most fun person in the world. Her inexhaustible energy makes exercise fun. Ileana Adamos, bodyforce@aol.com. Non Project, 129 East Fourth Street, New York, NY 10003 (+1212-539 1643; www.non-project.com).

Florence, Italy
Florence, Italy | Image: Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery

If I didn’t live in New York, the city I would live in is Florence; it has the highest concentration of masterpieces found anywhere in the world. I love the views from Piazzale Michelangelo above the city, meals at nearby La Loggia in Fiesole and that the people there have a real relationship with the art that surrounds them. If I weren’t living in a house, my next stop might be the St Regis. La Loggia, Villa San Michele, Via Doccia 4, 50014 Fiesole (+39055-567 8200; www.villasanmichele.com). St Regis hotel, Piazza Ognissanti 1, 50123 Florence (+39055-271 61; www.stregisflorence.com).

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a musician. I originally trained to be a concert pianist and find the emotion evoked by music, combined with the physicality of playing, really extraordinary.


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