Rafael Viñoly was born in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1944 to Roman Viñoly Barreto, a film and theater director and Maria Beceiro, a mathematics teacher. Viñoly, who originally trained for a career as a pianist, was educated at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Buenos Aires. By 1964 at the age of 20 he was a founding partner of Estudio de Arquitectura, which would become one of the largest design studios in Latin America. Viñoly’s early work transformed the landscape of Argentina, where his practice was based. In 1978 Viñoly fled persecution in Argentina and moved to the United States. After serving as a guest lecturer at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, he settled in New York City.
In 1983 he founded Rafael Viñoly Architects PC with offices in Lower Manhattan and London. The firm employs 170 design professionals who serve a broad international clientele. The firm’s philosophy is that: “A building is never the product of an individual’s artistic volition. It is always the result of a complex process in which different contributions and concerns should aim to elevate the client’s goals through their adjustment to the existing physical and cultural conditions.” The firm has completed unusually diverse work including award-winning courthouses, museums, performing arts centers, convention centers, athletic facilities, banks, hotels, commercial, industrial and educational facilities, laboratories, and recreational and residential commissions. Herbert Muschamp of The New York Times calls Viñoly "the most elegant architect now practicing in the United States," one whose powerful buildings "quicken your awareness of the present and its untapped possibilities."
Viñoly’s first major project for New York City was The John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In 1989 he won an international competition to design the Tokyo International Forum, the largest and most important complex in Japan. The firm was one of the finalists in the World Trade Center design competition. The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia opened to high acclaim in 2001 followed in the New York area by Jazz @ Lincoln Center, and the CUNY City College School of Architecture.
Rafael Viñoly is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, an International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and a member of the Japan Institute of Architects as well as the Sociedad de Arquitectos. Viñoly’s The Criminal Justice Complex, The Family Court, and the Lehman College Apex Sports Facility can be viewed in the Bronx.