Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mired in Meier--Part Three

I'm forced to say of almost every great architect that sadly, they have none, one, or only very few buildings built in New York City. With so much being built here on a daily basis, it really is inexcusable. But the same goes for Richard Meier. Two of his projects, the Reading Room at the Guggenheim and the 66 Restaurant (where I have eaten, actually, and it's a great restaurant), are both (quite lovely, but) mere interiors. The same is true of a number of private residences he's designed, although quite beautiful, they're just interiors, and furthermore can't be seen by anyone except in limited photographs. Here's 66:

--Photos courtesy the architect's website.

One of the more tragic losses was the destruction of his Bronx Development Center (1977), destroyed in 2003.

It is still standing, but I say "destroyed" because some idiot developer completely ruined the building. It really was one of my favorite buildings of Meier's. I only wish I'd thought to go up and see it before it was so callously built over. Such is the story with so many things, I don't feel rushed to go to see them, thinking they'll be there when I do, until it's already too late.

Then there's the Twin Parks Northeast Housing complex (1974), also in the Bronx. I do love that project in a very simplistic sort of way, but I don't think it's his best work. If nothing else, it's not purely Richard Meier; while he may have done a great job with it, he clearly did not have the kind of expressive freedom there to do something really remarkable. And to be quite honest, it would be a complete pain in the ass for me to get to it (it's, like, a mile's walk from the closest subway station), and it's not in the greatest neighborhood. It's around the back side of the Bronx Zoo.

One thing I'll have to confess I'm glad didn't happen was his entry for the competition to renovate Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center. I have a lot of fondness in my heart for Fisher and personally, I don't think it should be renovated at all. If someone has to do it, I suppose you couldn't choose better than Sir Norman Foster, but I think they should just leave well enough alone. As I've said elsewhere, it's perfect for its use, and the acoustics are just fine. That they aren't is just a myth perpetrated by ignorant columnists who don't know what they're talking about. But without question no one should ever dare touch the exterior of it. Meier's scheme did and would have completely defaced the whole look of Lincoln Center. This is why I've been so terribly pleased with the interventions of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. They're giving the complex a bit of a needed facelift, but above all, they've been very respectful and sensitive toward the soul and spirit of the architecture.

There is also, of course, the exquisite Meier on Prospect Park, which has only just recently been completed.

--Image courtesy Chelsea Partners.
Perhaps at some point I'll go take a closer look at that one for a later post. The only other free-standing buildings by Meier still in New York in the next post.

There is an exciting, and excitingly gargantuan project on the books for just south of the United Nations that I really hope gets put up (perhaps when the economy gets a little better), the East River Master Plan.

In my humble opinion, it would be a glorious and magical addition to the skyline as seen from over the East River.

©2010, Ryan Witte

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