A Lifetime of Architecture and Modern Design - A Biography of Richard Meier Ė
Born in depression era Newark, New Jersey, Richard Meier came of age in an America that was riding high. He created the bold, white geometric designs that would later become well known for how they reflected modernity and embodied it in freedom of the 1960s, allowing any building to become monumental artwork.
Consequently, his well-known style has been lambasted and copied by a multitude, as he and his firm became pre-eminent architects and designers of large public buildings, homes and home dťcor in the United States and worldwide. Meierís modern furniture and home furnishings blend functionality with his unique style that his firm has applied to architecture for nearly half a century.
Early on, Meier began his work with large projects and in 1997, some 40 years since his career began, the one billion dollar Getty Centre Museum that opened in Los Angeles (though a material departure for the artist) served to catapult his name into that pantheon of American architects that have become household names.
Meier attended the prestigious Cornell University where he studied and eventually graduated in Architectural Studies.
Just six years later, after short job posting with various firms, the young architect opened his own office from his apartment in New York City. His first project as a young architect was to design a show piece home for his own parents.
Upon becoming the youngest recipient of the Pritzger Architectural Prize in 1984, Maier said, ďThank god for oneís parents and their faith in us.Ē He has also received the AIA Gold Medal in 1997 and the Brunner Prize for Architecture as a young man in 1976.
Many of Meierís early works included opulent homes that blurred the lines of art and architecture with bold geometric designs. Employing crisp lines and glass, he juxtaposed man against nature while simultaneously trying to blur those distinctions. These radical designs in stark white caught the eye of, not only architectural buffs but also, New York critics who noted the bold departure from the norm evident in his style.
Since Maier has achieved the height of his fame on the West Coast with his California designs, many are surprised to learn that most of his early career is represented by buildings in New York and New England. This early works include his first major public project, a redesign of the 20th century building that became the Westbeth Artistís Housing project in New York Cityís Greenwich Village.
The Westbeth project was just being completed when the newly respectable firm was again tapped by public interest in New York City to produce the Bronx
Developmental Centre that would take nearly six years to complete.
One of the few buildings of Meierís that has since torn down, the setting was challenging one, bordering a chemical plant and a waste dump. Nonetheless, the building that emerged was hailed as a functional artwork that reclaimed beauty from a ravaged landscape.
Together these buildings would set the tone for Meierís development as architect during the 1970s and 80s. The Atheneum, a cultural centre in New Harmony Indiana was the first work the Meier Firm conceived from scratch as a centerpiece and focal point of a larger community. This work continues the theme of white materials and rigid angles offset by unexpectedly curved walls and open stair cases.
In 1977, Meier began work on modifying the Aye Simons Reading Room at the famous, Wright designed Guggenheim Museum. This small but intense remodeling project saw the first major use of his furnishings in an architectural design. During the 1980s and 1990s, Meier produced many works of sculpture, furniture, silverware and sketches. The Frankfurt Museum that he designed celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2005 by hosting a retrospective that included several hundred such decorative objects.
His modern furniture designs, including the museum chair from the Guggenheim have been produced by high end retailers. Other items that have been specifically designed as home furnishings for a wider market include the telephone stand he designed in the early 1980s and was granted a patent for in 1985. Other artistic objects from this period include bowls and limited edition tea sets cast in silver, much like his trademark use of stainless steel in glass.
Meierís first major museum project to be completed was the High Museum of Art Atlanta in 1983. Since his first successful foray into museum design, his plans have seen light in several projects around the world including such diverse places as Des Moines (1984), Frankfurt (1985), Montpelier (1995), Barcelona (1995) Beverly Hills (1996), Rome (2006), Rolandseck (2007) then continued to make such monumental public projects a mainstay of his focus for many years.
During this period of monumental works, Meier served as a professor of architecture several times at such prestigious institutions as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, the Pratt Institute, Cooper Union and UCLA. He is a fellow of several more.
Like any good worth his weight in salt, Meier has been a lightning rod for criticism in Europe, where he has design several buildings for public and private use. With respect to a contentious, decade long project in Rome, ďAs there hasnít been any new modern architecture built in the historic centre of Rome since Mussoliniís time,Ē Meier mused, ďI think the Ara Pacis Museum became a lightning rod for issues that were not directly related to the building itself.Ē
Much of Meierís work in recent years has shifted from, public buildings that people came to visit, but rather those they lived and work in. Recent works by his firm. Richard Meier and Partners, include innovative towers of apartments and condominiums, as well as office parks. Other projects include iconic restaurants, churches and galleries.
As his firmís work has turned toward residence towers and other large architectural works, Meier has continued to, like Frank Lloyd Wright before him, focus on creating an entire space that brings the architectural vision to full fruition with the use of custom home furnishings such as modern chairs, tables and a bold use of materials such as glass, stainless steel and exotic blonde woods.
From his beginnings in the woods of Connecticut, Richard Meier has forever left his mark on the architectural landscape with is silver and white buildings that blend the lines and themes of several influential 20th century architects into his own distinctive style that is easily recognizable worldwide.
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