“I lived in one room, and I worked in one room,” Meier told ARTINFO. “It wasn’t great.” He eventually upgraded, hiring his first employee after six months, then moving to a brownstone building that overlooked the garden of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Lever House on Park Avenue. Eventually, Meier moved to the very western edge of Manhattan at the suggestion of designer Massimo Vignelli (the longtime friend and fellow Modernist had already established his practice in the same building). Today, with a Pritzker Prize, dozens of architectural landmarks, and a firm that has spanned countless employees since, Meier and his staff of 60 find their home in a space that looks exactly as any designed by a Modernist protégé of Breuer’s would: a light-flooded open space only occasionally interrupted by white rectangular columns.
“What I appreciate most about Richard Meier’s projects,” said Maria Cristina Didero, the executive director of Italian mosaic design museum the Bisazza Foundation, is “the great amount of importance he puts on natural light in order to define spaces.” Shortly after seeing a recent show of his work in Mexico City, Didero approached Meier to organize a retrospective celebrating his 50 years of independence. Four-thousand miles away, on the outskirts of a small Italian town, the normally glittering Bisazza Foundation has carved out an appropriately unadorned, brightly illuminated space for “Richard Meier: Architecture and Design” (May 8 through July 7). Like Meier’s own office, the retrospective features elaborate scale models of his iconic works — the Smith House, the Getty Center, the Jubilee Church and more — along with prototypes of his industrial designs, sketches, and photographs. Also like the architect’s office, in a room featuring a wall made of floor-to-ceiling glass, Meier has installed his familiar rectangular columns, this time leaning at angles and adorned with glass Bisazza tiles to remain as part of the foundation’s permanent collection.