Richard Meyer: geometric harmony in architecture

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Richard Meyer: geometric harmony in architecture
Richard Meyer: geometric harmony in architecture

Video: Richard Meyer: geometric harmony in architecture

Video: Richard Meyer: geometric harmony in architecture
Video: Richard Meier 2023, September

Richard Meyer is one of America's most influential and widely imitated architects in the world. His name has become a kind of brand. Even now, at the age of 83, any project associated with Meyer is instantly gaining public interest.

He began his career in the early 1960s designing private residences whose elegant modernist style and white facades have become iconic of contemporary architecture. Known as a designer of large objects throughout the world, Meyer established his own international style, based on the purity of simple geometric lines and the harmony of external form with open, light-filled interior space. Why did the buildings of this architect become a symbol of modernity, and how do architects like Meyer become?

City Hall of San Jose
City Hall of San Jose

Project features

All of his designs are designed in classic variations of modernist canons: pure geometry, open space, emphasis on the abundance of light and white. Buildings surprisingly always organically fit intothe surrounding urban or natural landscape. Meyer is an ardent supporter of purism, the architectural trend of the 1920s, whose principles are based on the rigor and purity of lines. He was at one time a member of the "New York Five" of young architects who advocated a return to modernist rational architecture. But Richard Meyer in his works is as close as possible to the ideals of purism.

For all the architect's projects, the spatial contrast of light or transparent surfaces and solid white planes is characteristic, as well as geometric clarity and order, often complemented by curved ramps and railings. Meyer describes his vision of architecture as follows:

I am expanding and developing what I consider to be the formal basis of the contemporary movement… I am working with volume and surface, manipulating forms in light, changes in scale and the perception of movement and stasis.

Some critics see Meyer's structures as too austere, reminiscent of past architectural achievements, while others applaud their formal, clean beauty amidst the jumbled forms of postmodern architecture.

Ateneum, New Harmony
Ateneum, New Harmony

Meyer's Architectural Whiteness

White has been used in many designs throughout architectural history, including monuments, temples, palaces and whitewashed country houses in the Mediterranean, Spain, southern Italy, Greece. Richard Meyer has this to say about the whiteness of his designs:

White architecture expresses the quality of light and allows us to appreciate the world around us. White is everythingcolors wherever you look. Whiteness reflects nature in a way, it refracts light, it makes us more aware of the colors of nature because of the whiteness of the buildings.

residential cottage Neugebauer House
residential cottage Neugebauer House

All projects of the architect are distinguished by white or color close to it. Mayer's only black structure exists, a 42-story skyscraper in New York City on First Avenue. The author of the project himself talks about his design with humor:

I didn't want to build a black building. Our client came to me and said: “Richard, I really like your work, but I want a black building. Would you make a black building?" Well I said, "Why not?" And why not try something new? It is a very smooth black sheer wall, like patent leather, tautly stretched over a frame. This is something very different from the building we will build next, it will be white.

the only black building
the only black building

The phenomenon of continued success

Even before graduating from Cornell University, Meyer began his professional life and worked in succession at three major New York firms from 1956 to 1963. His early experience also includes working with the renowned exponent of the international style of architecture, Marcel Breuer. In 1963, six years after graduating from university, 29-year-old architect Richard Meyer founded his own firm. Two years later, he received critical acclaim for the Smith House (1965-1967) in Darien, Connecticut, the first of his so-called white buildings. The project was clearly based on the originalmodernism and functionalism of the work of the purist architect Le Corbusier in the 1920s. During the same period, Meyer formed the New York Five, a loose association.

An archetypal example of his work, the Douglas House (1971-1973), located in Michigan's Harbor Springs, received even more attention. Like most of Meyer's buildings, the structure features intersecting planes and contrasts strongly with its surroundings due to its crisp, geometric whiteness.

Smith House
Smith House

Major public and residential projects

Following the success of impressive private residences beginning in the mid-1970s, Richard Meier began to receive major commissions including:

  • Atheneum - Center for New Harmony (1975-1979) in Indiana.
  • Museum of Applied Arts (1979-1985) in Frankfurt am Main in Germany.
  • The Higher Museum of Art (1980-1983) in Atlanta, Georgia.
  • City building and library (1986-1995) in The Hague, Netherlands.
  • Museum of Modern Art (1987-1995) in the Spanish city of Barcelona.

Meyer designed many public buildings. Only recently completed major projects include the Arp Museum in Germany; Club "OCT" in the Chinese city of Shenzhen; Art Center at the University of California; Italcementi i.lab in Italy; US Federal Court in San Diego, California; Weill Hall Science and Technology Building at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Recent projects and ongoing work include the Alessandria Province Bridge in Italy; office building inRio de Janeiro Brazil; Teachers' Village in Newark, New Jersey; Surf Club in Surfside, Florida; Reform Innovation Tower in Mexico City.

Hotel "Gangneung-si", in South Korea
Hotel "Gangneung-si", in South Korea

Recent Residential Projects:

  • "Rothschild Tower" in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv;
  • two skyscrapers in Tokyo;
  • three residential projects in Taiwan;
  • hotel complex in South Korea.
  • private residences in Europe, Asia and North America.

From 1965 to 2015, Richard Meyer created 47 original designs, each of which impresses with its elegant purity of lines.

Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum
Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum


From 1985 to 1997, Meyer focused on the Getty Center, erected in Los Angeles. It consists of six main buildings that house expositions and educational institutions. The center is built of honey-colored travertine, complemented by aluminum panels.

The multi-purpose complex, containing spaces ranging from public galleries to private offices, allowed Meyer to embody the contrast between public and private space like never before. And the location of the center in the hills of Los Angeles gave the architect the best opportunity to study the effects of light. The structure has become a popular tourist attraction, and Meyer spoke of it like this:

People like to look at architecture, they want to see not only internal but also external spaces. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles is an example of a place where people from all over the worldcome to look at the art and see everything around the museum, be it the gardens or special places where people can relax and gather together.

Getty Center
Getty Center

After this project, Richard Meyer was especially fascinated by the construction of museum complexes, he designed up to a dozen such objects, including:

  1. Atlanta Georgia Museum of Art (1980-1983).
  2. Des Moines Contemporary Art Center (1984) in Des Moines, Iowa.
  3. Arts and Crafts (1979-1985) in the German city of Frankfurt am Main.
  4. Barcelona Museum of Modern Art (1995) in Spain.
  5. Modern Art Museum Frieder Burda (2004) in Baden-Baden Germany.
  6. Ara Pacis Museum (2006) in Rome, housing the ancient Roman Altar of Peace.
  7. Art History Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck (2008) in Remagen, Germany.

Meyer spoke about his passion for museum projects:

I love creating museums because every museum is unique. The theme of the expositions is different, and therefore the tasks of the projects are different. But it is always a public space where one can gather for pleasure as well as for learning.

Awards and titles

Richard Meyer's work is best characterized by public appreciation. In 1984, he received the highest award in architecture, the Pritzker Prize, similar to the Nobel Prize, which is awarded for achievements in science and culture. Meyer was 53 at the time.year.

In 1997, the architect received the AIA Gold Medal, the highest award from the American Institute of Architects, and in the same year, the Praemium Imperiale from the Japanese government in recognition of lifetime achievement in the arts. He is a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects and the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor from the New York Chapter of the AIA in 1980 and the Gold Medal from the Los Angeles Chapter in 1998. The architect's numerous awards include 30 National AIA Honor Awards and over 50 Regional AIA Design Awards.

In 1989, Meyer received the Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects. In 1992, the French government honored him with being Commander of Arts and Letters. In 1995, Meyer was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2011, he received the AIANY President's Award and the Sidney Strauss Award from the New York Society of Architects.

He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the American Academy in Rome and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, from which he received a gold medal for architecture in 2008. He has received honorary degrees from the University of Naples, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the New School for Social Research, the Pratt Institute, the University of Bucharest and North Carolina State University.

Mayer in his office
Mayer in his office

Leaving the company

In March 2018, Meyer announced that he was taking a six-month vacation after fivewomen, four of whom worked at his firm, accused the architect of sexual harassment. He issued a statement in which he said that he remembers the situation differently than the accusers described it, but Meyer apologized for the fact that he could offend anyone with his behavior. In an interview that took place a few months later, he denied the accusations and stated that his leave was due to he alth reasons. In October of the same year, 83-year-old Richard Meyer left the company he founded 55 years ago for good.