Renowned architect Richard Meier ’57, architecture, returned to Cornell on Wednesday to reflect on a career that has positioned him at the top of his profession. In 1972, he was recognized as one of the “New York Five,” a group of eminent modernist architects. The 1984 Pritzker Prize recipient’s work is often associated with that of Le Corbusier, pioneer of modern architecture; Meier’s buildings have stayed exceptionally true to this modern aesthetic, while also expanding on its ideals. Although Meier began his career designing houses, his work has since morphed into an extensive repertoire spanning art museums, residential buildings, public works buildings, office buildings and more.
Meier’s iconic modern designs have graced many locations throughout the U.S. and Europe, including Cornell’s Ithaca campus. Meier is the architect behind Weill Hall (2008), and the building’s stark whiteness, open space and interaction with natural light are characteristic of his designs. Meier’s Artistic Conscience, on display at the John Hartell Gallery in Sibley Dome till November 2, exposes the creative processes behind his architecture in four different mediums — sculpture, collage, architectural drawing and models.
In Artistic Conscience, Meier’s artistic expression is presented in the form of sculpture and collage. His personal art greatly differs from his sleek professional architecture designs, as seen in his drawings and models. His sculptures are rustic machine-like forms that are robotic yet lively. These abstract forms could even serve as an imaginary framework for futuristic living space. Although these sculptures are different from the look of his buildings, their simplified construction and balance evoke similarities to his architecture. His most surprising, and therefore most intriguing form of individual artistic expression are his collages which are both framed on the wall and displayed in large journals on pedestals.
The most prominent difference between his art and architecture is the use of bright color in his collages, which contrasts sharply with his stark-white architecture. The collages in his journals are assemblages of paper and pictures that represent different moments in his life, with an emphasis on his travels. Some of the items used in his collages are restaurant business cards, acquired photos, tickets and passes that represent his travels around the world. The framed, square collages on the wall are created from appropriated paper and images throughout his life, yet they are far more assimilated. Text and color dominate the collages, evoking a geometric quality this is both visually stimulating and pleasing. Meier’s art could easily hang on the walls of one of his sleek modern buildings.
Alongside his personal artistic expression are drawings and models of two unbuilt projects that were designed for Cornell’s Ithaca campus. One project, titled Cornell Undergraduate Housing (1974), consists of two dormitories on the edge of campus in Cayuga Heights, just past North Campus. Meier explains that the proposed four-story dormitories would be a response to the rolling terrain of the area. The dormitories would follow the contours of the site in a serpentine-like form. The other project was an Alumni & Admissions Center (1988), which aimed to highlight the topography of the site. The center was proposed as two interrelating complexes — a reception building and an administrative wing — situated on opposite sides of Fall Creek. The buildings would be linked by a pedestrian bridge built over the gorge.
By showcasing both sides of a consistently productive and creative artist and architect, Artistic Conscience reveals why Meier remains such an inspiring and intriguing designer.
Artistic Conscience is on display at John Hartell Gallery, Sibley Dome, until November 2.