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: What are the recurring themes in your work?
Richard Meier: Well there are many. The relationship of the . . . of the building to its environment is critical. The context – where it is. What that context implies in terms of the work. How do you make public space in any work? What are you . . . What are you giving to the city? Not just to the building, but outside of the building – how is this contributing to life that’s all around us? And also whether there’s a sense of movement through the building – the sense of promenade, or sense of changes of small scale spaces to large scale spaces. Private spaces and public spaces – how are these expressed? Well all of these are my concerns in any building.
Question: Why white?
Richard Meier: Why white? You know how many times I’ve been asked that question? Thousands. And so I keep trying to think of a new answer, a different answer for the same question because I’ve been asked it so many times. Unfortunately I can’t think of it . . . of a different answer. So I have to give you what I’ve said before, and that is that first of all, white is all colors. It’s color all around us. There’s color in nature. There’s a color that . . . the changing color of the day; the colors of the seasons; the color of what people are wearing. Everything has color, and the whiteness reflects that color. It refracts that color, and you become even more highly sensitive to the color that’s all around you because of the whiteness of the environment. But also, and of equal importance to me, is that whiteness expresses the architectural ideas in the clearest way – the relationship of one plane to another; the relationship of linear elements to plainer elements; the way the space is modulated; the openness and closure, the transparency and opacity that exists in defining the space. All of these things become clear because of the whiteness of the buildings.
Recorded on: 9/17/07