Modernist in White Armour
A few Samples of Richard Meier's life work:
(© ActiveRain Corporation)
Richard Meier at age 49
(© Pritzker Architecture Award, the Hyatt Corporation)
Richard Alan Meier was born in 1934 in Newark New Jersey. Twenty-five years later - after graduating from Cornell University’s Architecture School, and after Cornell, working briefly for SOM - Meier decided that the best mentor he could personally select was Swiss-born architect, Charles-Edouard Jeanneret. Of course, most of us know Jeanneret by the name he gave himself - ‘Le Corbusier' a spin on his grandfather's name that resembled this French word for Raven.
To meet the great man, Meier would need to travel to Paris. Once there, he intended to ask Le Corbusier if he could become an intern. And oh, by the way, he would make this request with an attached offer that he believed that Le Corbusier could not refuse – he would work for free.
Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye
1928-31 Poissy, France
Meier deliberately had not sent any written correspomdence nor made any telephone calls in advance. He simply came to Paris to see Le Corbusier unannounced, with all the power of a direct plea. But once he identified himself as an American. Le Corbusier summarily told Meier that he, the great Le Corbu', did not want anything to do with him, and that Meier should pursue his craft with someone other than himself, preferably far away from Paris.
You see, Le Corbusier at this time was angry about America, and by extension, Americans of any stripe. He felt that America had blocked his architectural projects proposed to the UN, for purely political reasons. And he was also suspicious of any contact with Americans, since he thought they had used these methods to sabotage his work elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Meier spent the next twenty-five years of his life, becoming one of America’s greatest architects. By the age of 49, he was the youngest architect to have ever received the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Award - often called the Architectural equivalent of the Academy Award. And from his first seriously recognized work, the Smith House in 1963, until his largest commission, the J. Paul Getty Center received in 1984, he was ironically categorized by many as perhaps the greatest student of the Le Corbusier legacy still living.
Nearly all of Meier’s works, and he has been prolific since Smith House, are sometimes thought by Architecture critics as endless variations on the same theme. But like Brahms in music, what beautiful variations he has spawned. His buildings are usually clad with something rendered in white – such as painted metal, stucco, porcelain tile – with the rest of it with glass. He uses liberally what the French call the "brise de soleil" (external sun screens) when it suits his purpose, the same as Le Corbusier. And he loves to use tubular railing on his staircases and ramps, with the latter usually dressed in white, also like Le Corbusier in his earlier efforts. Le Corbusier's work above, whilst under the influence of "Purist" styling, a term that he and a French painter coined for a new artistic aesthetic, illustrates the fountainhead to Meier. Villa Savoye was built before Meier was born, Meier's first significant home was completed just after Le Corbusier's tragic death - compare-and-contrast the above with that below and then tell us what you think about this subject:
Frederick and Carol Smith House
Darien, Connecticut USA
(© k+NAP and © Yahoo geocities)
Richard Meier does not deny his preference for white structures, nor does he deny the influence of Le Corbusier’s ideas on his practise of architecture. But he quickly adds that many other architects have influenced him as well. Moreover, he insists that through his experience, he has developed a unique way to move light through structures, and hence, create space and order out of the resultant form that reflect his personal vision. Smith House was voted, twenty-five years after it was built, as one of the 31 most influential buildings on modern architecture by the AIA - high praise for the first work seriously considered of Meier.