The Poetry of Space
Richard Meier

Color of light
Pure, diminutive, transformative
A blank page
A prepared canvas

Richard Meier is known for his white architecture, a style first enunciated by Le Corbusier, whose practice and philosophy influenced Meier?s own, as did Frank Lloyd Wright. While Meier has built some non-white buildings ? most notably the Getty Center in Los Angeles ? his preference for all white building materials prevails. As he describes it, White lends itself to the clearest expression of architectural polarities: open/closed, linear/planer, opacity/transparency, logic/lyric.

Meier received his formal training at Cornell University. He established his own practice in New York City in 1963. Exercising a penchant for painting, I took to designing buildings during the day and painting at night. But architecture demands one?s undivided attention, so I made a choice. Reviewing Meier?s career to date, it?s not surprising he elected to channel his creative energies and concentrate exclusively on the development of his talent and skill as an architect. So doing he embraces the best of both worlds.

Today Richard Meier enjoys international acclaim. His architecture is praised for its fluency of form, its elegance and sublime beauty.

Meier is a recipient of the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize (1984), on of the highest tributes awarded in the field of architecture. He has been honored with a Royal Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of Architects, among them: the High Museum of Art in Atlanta; the Frankfurt Museum of Decorative Arts, the Canal+ Television Headquarters in Paris; the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

Meier may have set his easel, brushes and paints aside, but he didn?t surrender his painterly spirit. His white buildings are like colossal canvases on which Nature paints her restless abstractions.

One of Meier?s tectonic canvases finds its home now in The Netherlands. Situated in the ancient settlement of ?s Gravenhage,The Hague City Hall stands as a tribute to the seventeenth century Master painters who depicted the pageantry of the big Dutch sky with exquisite accuracy.Dutch light excites me tremendously. There?s an intoxicating, and at the same time ataraxic quality to it. White architecture captures the drama and exuberance of Dutch light. It?s thrilling to watch.

Richard Meier believes the power of architecture lies in its ability to add to the landscape in a meaningful way, thereby enhancing our perception of nature. If a site can?t be improved by building on it, it should be left alone.

Meier?s recent addition to the Dutch landscape consists of three different building parts ? a city hall, public library, and independent commercial office building ? joined by a wide, open atrium, the largest in Europe. Camouflaged in whiteness, this vast interior space is Meier?s ?Hall to the People.? The play of light spilling in from the glass-paneled roof, recording every variation of light in the wind-swept sky above, the commingling of interior and exterior spatial categories, the constant flow and circulation of people, combine to create an epic atmosphere in which citizens of The Hague can meet, work, attend concerts, view exhibitions,hold demonstrations against the government and not get wet, Meier quips. Like agorae of old, a place of palaver. It?s a tremendous space. Entering it, the first things that comes to mind is, ?Wow?.

The wedge-shaped site was static and uncompromising, challenging Meier?s inherently American notion of space. ]Space is a central fact of life in the United States. Everything comes large there. A different attitude prevails in Holland, where space is a precious commodity. I marvel at how the Dutch value every available centimeter of ground.

The tectonic equation that directed the construction of Meier?s sprawling public and commercial complex is testimony not only to his architectural alchemy but, indeed, to his close reading of Dutch spatial orientations. Meier makes optimal use of every available square meter without compromising the surrounding area. The building's mass and weight are disguised by its veil of white (witness to the weightlessness of light). It appears to create space rather than to fill it: a quality treasured by the Dutch; some would say, a national preoccupation.

Richard Meier succeeds in creating a radiant civic symbol for the de facto capital of The Netherlands. Like the paintings of the seventeenth century Dutch Masters, it may be destined to become a national treasure.

Set against the backdrop of the big Dutch sky, Richard Meier?s white architecture takes on an ethereal quality, like poetry in space.

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All quotations belong to the architect Richard Meier.
Meghan Ferrill