Richard Meier is one of the foremost contemporary American architects. In 1984 at the age of 49, Meier was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, often referred to as the Nobel of architecture. He was the youngest architect to receive the profession's highest accolade. Meier is known for resisting trend-based designs, instead developing his own design philosophy rooted in rationalism and noted for its use of the color white. His designs can be seen as Neo-Corbusian, referencing the famous French architect's early phase in particular. Meier has also named Frank Lloyd Wright as another major influence. Perhaps his most famous design is The Getty Center, a Los Angeles art museum funded by the J. Paul Getty trust. Meier was born in Newark, New Jersey, and educated at Cornell University.
Question: How has technology changed architecture?
Richard Meier: A lot of things have changed with the advent of the computer in terms of the way in which we make drawings, the way in which we produce the documents for every project. So it used to be that I would sit and draw something . . . draw it up, and I would look over the drawings. Today I have to ask someone to print it out for me. They’re used to just looking at it on the screen. I want to see the printout so I can work over the paper.
Question: Is anything lost not doing it the old-fashioned way?
Richard Meier: I don’t think anything is lost, no. I don’t think that things have changed that much. One thing I do see on the part of many young people coming out of architecture schools – because the computer and the way in which they work on the computer, their sense of scale and their understanding of scale is not what it should be. Because computer drawing, in a sense, has no scale until you apply a scale to it. And that used to trouble me a great deal, but we spend a lot of time with young people so that they understand the importance of scale in the drawing and in the building. I would say that the computer has enabled certain kinds of drawings and certain kinds of forms to evolve which were not conceivable in terms of making of architecture when things were drawn. And so I think that it enables people to manipulate form in a . . . in a way that is changing architecture throughout the world.
Question: Have any of your designs been influenced by the computer?
Richard Meier: If so, not in ways that I would recognize. Oh that’s a tough question. I really leave that to other people. I would . . . I think that technology and communication today is such that there’s a much greater ability to communicate ideas throughout . . . through architecture. Ideas in architecture are even communicated in a way that they weren’t ever before. Earlier today, on a totally different subject, I asked people here to what degree our web site was being visited, because I wanted to update the web site if it hadn’t been updated in quite a long time. And I wanted to see, you know, not only how often it was being hit upon, or used, but where the interest came from. Guess how many hits we get per day? Nine-thousand. Last year, we’ve had 12 million hits. I was pretty impressed by that. But you know that shows us that there is an interest, and that there is a communication in ways that are far greater than we can ever imagine.
Recorded on: 9/17/07