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Refining Basic Principles and Moving Forward

Richard Meier & Partners Architects

Refining Basic Principles and Moving Forward
By Michael Webb -

In his fifth decade of practice, Richard Meier remains consistently fresh, true to the principles that defined his earliest work. There is a direct link between the Smith house of 1965 on Long Island Sound, and a group of villas now under construction on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The language has become richer, the finishes more precise, but both employ the same minimalist aesthetic of white planes and expansive glazing, a cutaway cube infused with natural light. Not since Mies - who famously declared that he saw no reason to reinvent himself every Monday morning - has an architect pursued the same path so fruitfully for so long. Le Corbusier, whose purist villas of the 1920s were a point of departure for Meier, was a chameleon who reinvented himself every decade.
Meier is an unwavering modernist who was never distracted by the short-lived fads of post-modernism, deconstructivism and the other isms coined by self-absorbed academics. His inspiration comes from classical Rome, the exuberant luminosity of the baroque, and the rationalist tradition all of which he transmutes. A perfectionist whose signature is white - a fusion of all the colors - he seeks to refine every surface and detail. Dark suited and snowy haired, he has the same distinctive presence as his best buildings, but his reputation is sustained by his talented partners and associates in New York and Los Angeles, and enriched by his passion for contemporary art.
Beyond the private houses and art museums - the one flowing seamlessly into the other - Meier has mastered a broad range of building types. Within his first seven years, he had converted the Bell Telephone Laboratory in Manhattan into artists’ lofts, and designed a massive public housing project, the Bronx Developmental Center, and offices for Olivetti. Since then, he and his partners have completed major civic, educational and corporate buildings in Europe and America, a church in Rome, and the Getty Center, an arts campus on...

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