Friday, May 07, 2010

Meier Model Museum

About a block from the East River and the Pepsi sign in Long Island City is the Richard Meier Model Museum. Its presence is subtly discerned by a sign rendered in the familiar typographics and abundant white space that graces the architect's monographs, web page and everything else with the architect's stamp of approval.

Richard Meier Model Museum
[the unassuming front door to the Richard Meier Model Museum]

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend a press tour of the museum with the architect himself, a day before it reopens to the public for its 2010 season. Below are some photographs I shot and some commentary on the 3,600sf space featuring works from the 1960s to the present.

Richard Meier Model Museum
[view of the museum from the direction of the entrance]

Entering the third floor museum, the primarily wood models stand out in the all-white space. About half of the square footage is occupied by Getty Center models, from small-scale studies to a huge highly detailed, 16-piece model (foreground above) and an inhabitable gallery space used for studying daylighting (background above). The effect is certainly overwhelming, further elevating the significance of the master architect.

Richard Meier Model Museum
[looking the opposite direction of the previous photo]

What comes across in the myriad models is an unbelievable level of perfection and a consistency that jibes with Meier's buildings across his 40-odd year career. Study models seen earlier in a brief tour of Meier's west side office were anything but, resembling finished models more than works in progress. Precision and a refinement of space, light, material and detail predominate. My own tastes lean towards architects who vary their output in form and style according to the site and program at hand, but my admittedly inferior model-making skills make me appreciate the craft and patience they exhibit.

Richard Meier Model Museum
[early "studies" for the Getty Center]

Richard Meier Model Museum
[Mr. Meier describing the Getty Center project]

Of the Getty Center models, perhaps my favorite was the one with a scale somewhere between the "studies" and the large-scale model loomed over by Meier above. Below is a detail of a quite big and highly detailed one-piece model that had to be craned into the museum through a now-covered skylight. I seem to recall the model being 16' long! I like it because it gives a much better sense of the overall project than the others, which are either too small to get into the particulars of each building, or too large to be absorbed at once. This one really conveys the scale and grandeur of the 15-year-long project.

Richard Meier Model Museum
[another Getty Center model]

While the Getty is represented by a double-digit number of models, only one exists for the World Trade Center proposal Meier developed with Peter Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey and Steven Holl.

Richard Meier Model Museum
[WTC proposal model]

As most know the relatively diagrammatic design did not make it to the final round, but Meier holds high regard for the proposal and what it embodies, particularly in terms of how voids represent memory.

Richard Meier Model Museum
[Meier in the void between the two towers]

Lastly are the steel sculptures that Meier has created in his free time, messy assemblages compared to his crisp, precise, white buildings. An outlet from the rigor of his practice?

Richard Meier Model Museum
[Meier's artwork adorns the walls]

Previously I "mashed up" some of Meier's freestanding pieces with photos of his buildings to illustrate the discrepancy. In the model musuem, a real mash-up occurs in the juxtaposition between the crafted models and still crafted but uniquely different steel sculptures.

Richard Meier Model Museum
[models galore]

Those interested in visiting the Richard Meier Model Museum -- open on Fridays until August 27 -- should call his office at 212-967-6060.

Update 05.17: Some coverage from other tour-goers:
:: Aaron Dougherty
:: Archinect
:: Architizer
:: Cool Hunting