The Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum will present a special installation in its Great Hall to celebrate Richard Meier’s promised gift of two architectural drawings of the J. Paul Getty Center in Los Angeles. Meier is presenting the works to Cooper-Hewitt on the occasion of his 75th birthday and the publication of “Richard Meier, Architect Volume 5” (Rizzoli USA, Oct. 2009).
“Meier 75,” on view from Oct. 1 to Oct. 12, includes drawings and models for three major projects the Smith House in Darien, Conn.; the Getty Center; and the Jubilee Church, in a suburb of Rome as well as three collage works by Meier. The installation is curated by Gail S. Davidson, curator and head of the Drawings, Prints and Graphic Design Department. During a career spanning more than 50 years, Meier has placed his unique stamp on every type of architectural project, including private residences and housing complexes, corporate headquarters and commercial buildings, universities, seminaries, churches and museums. Inspired by the ideas and works of Le Corbusier and other early modernist architects, Meier sees a distinction between architecture and nature, viewing buildings as vessels through which one experiences the natural world.
“It is my great pleasure to present the Getty Center drawings to Cooper-Hewitt,” said Meier. “As these are the first of my drawings to enter the museum’s collection, the gift is a special delight and honor for me.” On display will be a model for the Smith House (1965-67), a domestic project that first brought the architect to public attention. The white walls of the house reflect the play of light and shadow and the colors of nature from both interior and exterior sources, and they exemplify the importance of light in all of Meier’s work.
A highlight of the installation will be the two architectural drawings of the Getty Center, which will be acquired by the museum’s Drawings, Prints and Graphic design department. The acclaimed Getty Center complex (1984-97), which straddles a hilltop in Los Angeles, includes a series of pavilions laid out according to function, with the public museum buildings on the southeastern, city-side of the hill, and the more private buildings on the ocean-side. The drawings, “Getty Center, Site Study 1” and “Design for Museum Entrance Area, Getty Center,” and the finished structures illustrate Meier’s practice of employing regulating grids generated from site-specific details, as well as the architectural promenade or circulation ramp on the interior and exterior of buildings and the cantilevered entrance marquees. A model of the Getty Center will accompany the drawings.
Two drawings and a model of Meier’s Jubilee Church (1996-2004) will also be on display. The project commissioned by the Roman Archdiocese in honor of the millennium, includes a functioning church and a secular four-story community center. Three soaring, brilliant white concrete shells, made of precast concrete blocks composed of crushed Carrara marble, form the walls of the adjacent nave, baptistery and daily chapel.
Finally, the installation will include the collage works “Libertas: (1998), “Max haus” (1998) and “Art” (1987), which offer a unique view into Meier’s architectural working process.