Legacy Project

The Humana Building

Louisville, Kentucky

Contextual design: a new urban paradigm

The competition-winning design of the Humana Building was forward-looking in its approach to the city, the workplace, and the environment, all of which contributed to its enduring effect on urban design, architecture, and interiors. Unlike the steel and glass towers and wind-swept plazas that characterized the prior generation of corporate headquarters – and Graves’ competitors’ schemes – the Humana Building occupies the whole site and re-established the street edge as an essential urban form. Its architectural character and response to context became a new urban paradigm, much imitated in the years following its construction, which was completed in 1985.

Architectural character

The massing and articulation of the 26-story Humana Building corresponded to the context. The low section at Fifth and Main Street, pulled forward from the tower, acknowledges the scale of the adjacent historic street wall, whereas the tower corresponds to an adjacent modern high rise office building. Facing the Ohio River, a large bowed public porch at the top of the building is visually supported by a steel truss that refers to the bridges that cross the river. The ground floor includes a public exterior loggia and retail space in a gesture to maintain the street wall, which established a precedent that urban historians credit in part for the preservation of Louisville’s Main Street.

Project Lead

Michael Graves. Current staff who participated: Thomas P. Rowe, AIA, Karen Nichols, FAIA, Patrick Burke, AIA

Professional Credits

Associate Architect Graves-Warnecke


Louisville, KY (Americas)


525,000 SF

Completion Date



National AIA Honor Award, AIA New Jersey Design Award, Interiors Magazine Design Award

Interior Design

The award-winning interiors emphasized the quality of the workplace, from beautifully detailed and commodious public spaces to employee lounges and offices. A large vertical bay window facing south was designed as an employee lounge, and the shared facilities such as an auditorium, reception hall, and multi-purpose room are located at the top of the building. The “best” locations in the building were thus reserved for the greatest number of employees, whereas the executive suite was placed on the 5th and 6th floors. The office and executive floors have been updated several times since the 1980s.

Facade Detail
Rooftop View

Legacy Projects

At Michael Graves we create design that clients dream of. We not only care about what we create we care about who we create it for.