Richard Meier, “white buildings make you more aware of the colors of nature”

Richard Meier portrait

In a recent video interview from the Time Space Existence series (you can see it here thanks to our media partner PLANE-SITE) great American architect Richard Meier talks about some of the key points of his vision of architecture.

From the use of his beloved white color (though with some exceptions), to the quality of good design to age well, to his preference for museums as places where people can, at the same time, experience architecture, socialize, enjoy, and learn; in this interview (made by PLANE_SITE, the GAA Foundation, and the European Culture Center) Meier reveals many of the elements that make his buildings so unique.

The video (click to play)

Full transcript

About the relationship between architecture and context

How do we make a building in a context, in which that context can enliven the city that the building has arms that reach out to the community and become part of the community?
Quality of architecture gives life to the city. It creates a space that belongs to the city, buildings that relate at ground level to the pedestrians and people moving. Architecture is about making space which is of human scale.

On museums

I love doing museums because every museum is different. The collection is different, the context is different, but it’s a public space of coming together for enjoyment, but also for learning.
People want to see architecture, they want to experience not just the interior spaces, but the exterior spaces as well. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles is an example of a place where people come from all over the world to look at the art, but also to experience everything that’s around it, whether it’s gardens or the special spaces where people can enjoy and come together.

On whiteness

Architecture is expressing a quality of light. It should also allow you to appreciate nature that’s around you. White is all colors. It’s everywhere. Everywhere you look. Whiteness, in a sense, reflects nature, it refracts light, it makes you more aware of the colors of nature because of the whiteness of the buildings.
It wasn’t my choice to build a black building (Meier refers to his 685 First Avenue 42-story tower in New York, currently under construction). Our client came to me, and he said, “Richard, I really like your work, but I want a black building. Would you do a black building?”. Well, I said, “Why not?” Why not try something new? This is a very sleek black curtain wall. It’s almost wrapping of a skin, which it is, around a frame. It’s something very different from a building that we would do that would be white.

About time and architecture

There is a relationship between time and what we are doing. When I talk with young architects, I say it takes a certain amount of perseverance to stick with it because architecture doesn’t happen quickly. Many projects take a number of years.
When I look back at the work we’ve done over the years and I see how the buildings have aged, I’m actually gratified because I feel there’s a timeless quality. They have just weathered the time of their existence, and continue to have the quality of the human-scale experience. It’s the spatial experience that is what architecture is all about.

Richard Meier Jubilee Church Rome exterior

Richard Meier & Partners; Jubilee Church, Rome, 1996-2003; photo © Scott Frances


Smith House, Darien, Connecticut, 1965-1967; photo © Scott Frances

Richard Meier 685 First Avenue tower New York

685 First Avenue tower, New York City, 2015-2019 image © Bloomimages

Richard Meier Getty Center Los Angeles

The Getty Center, Los Angeles, California, 1984-1997; photo © Scott Frances


MACBA – Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona, 1987 – 1995; photo © Inexhibit

Richard Meier Athenaeum New Harmony

The Atheneum, New Harmony, Indiana, 1975 – 1979; photo © Scott Frances

Richard Meier Saltzman House

Saltzman House, East Hampton, New York, 1967 – 1969; photo © Scott Frances

Cover image: Richard Meyer, portrait, by PLANE_SITE

About Time-Space-Existence

Time, space and existence. These three concepts sketch out the contours of the world around us — a fact especially true within architecture. Taking these words as its starting point, the GAA Foundation is set to curate its fourth collateral exhibition in the context of La Biennale di Venezia Architettura, entitled Time-Space-Existence and opening in May 2018. Featuring over 100 established and emerging architects, and unapologetically international in breadth, the exhibition provides a fascinating complement to a biennial traditionally drawn along national lines.

Useful links

GAA Foundation:
European Cultural Centre (ECC):
Richard Meier & Partners Architects

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