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The Getty Center


My work in Germany
Richard Meier Architect
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The Frankfurt Museum, I think, was extraordinarily important in Germany because it was the really first major post-war modern building that, in a sense, bridged the gap between the pre-war architects and the post-war architectural community. It looked back and had perhaps some of the aspects of, you know, the great German architects that practiced there, the kind of planar quality against the transparent quality of the building, the openness of the space, you know. And I think in Germany it was seen as, sort of, a part of a continuum that others, sort of, didn't take part in and it was very important to younger architects especially in saying, you know, modern architecture in Germany has a history and we've ignored that history. We tried to bury that history. We tried to destroy that history. We really should renew that history and move on. And I think that's what's happened as a result, but there was a huge, just appreciation for that building as, kind of, turning the tide at that moment and as a result, you know, I've done many things in Germany of all different scales.

[Q] Can you tell us about the sequence [unclear]?

Well, a lot of the... when I look back, a lot of the work that I did in Germany, in France, in Italy, was a result of competitions that I won. The Frankfurt Museum was a competition. After that I was invited, I remember I got a letter from the Mayor of Ulm, inviting me to take part in a competition for the Stadthaus on the cathedral square in the center of the city. And I opened the letter and I see that it was not only sent to me but was sent to a number of other architects including my friend, Hans Hollein.

[Q] Again.

Again. And so I got on the phone and I called Hans. I said, Hans, you know, I see we're both invited to take part in this competition in Ulm, you know, what do you think? He said, Richard, why would you ever think of getting involved in Ulm, they've had dozens of competitions for the cathedral square in the last hundred years and nothing has been built. I said, well, I know but that it looks like an interesting project. Oh, forget it, said Hans.  So Hans didn't even do the competition and I won. And so we built the Stadthaus, so you know and did... redid the whole cathedral square, so in a sense we've brought the heart of the city back to the center of the city by getting rid of the parking lot there where people were parking right in front of the cathedral and making that a marketplace and a place for all kinds of events. So it's a small project but it's a very important project and that led to Mr Weishaupt coming to me to make a small museum and worker's cafeteria in Schwendi, which is a village near Ulm. It's only 20 minute drive from Ulm to Schwendi, and you go through this beautiful, bucolic countryside and then he has his factory. And when the workers come to work by bicycle or walking every day, they come under the building, you know, undercover, and then go to the factory and then come there for lunch. So you know, one thing sometimes leads to another and many years later, Mr Burda, who wanted to build his... a museum on... in the city park - the city gave him the land in this park in the centre of Baden Baden and he paid for the building and put his collection of contemporary art in the building. A small building but it's just a jewel, you know, and only in Europe do... is there this relationship between private and public enterprise. Where a private person gets to build a private building in a public park and then donates it to the... to the city. It's very unusual but these things happen and then, you know, the cities are much richer as a result.

The prominent American architect Richard Meier (b. 1934) is best known for the Getty Centre in Los Angeles, one of his many public projects which broke from his usual style of sleek, white buildings. In all his work – carried out with characteristic refined style – he refuses to bend to the trends of modern architecture. He has won many awards including the Pritzker Prize for Architecture, considered the field's highest honour.

Listeners: Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli was born in Milan and studied architecture in Milan and Venice. He is the co-founder and President of Vignelli Associates and Chief Executive Officer of Vignelli Designs in New York. His work includes graphic and corporate identity programs, publication designs, architectural graphics, interiors, furniture, and consumer product designs. His work has been published and exhibited throughout the world and entered in the permanent collections of several museums. He has taught and lectured on design in the major cities and universities in the United States and abroad. Included among Massimo Vignelli's awards are the Gran Premio Triennale di Milano, 1964, the Compasso d'Oro, awarded by the Italian Association for Industrial Design (ADI), 1964 and 1998, the 1982 Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, the 1983 AIGA Gold Medal, the 1992 Interior Product Designers Fellowship of Excellence, The 1995 Brooklyn Museum Design Award for Lifetime Achievement and The 2001 Russel Wright Award for Design Excellence.

Tags: Frankfurt Museum for the Decorative Arts, Ulm Stadthaus, Schwendi, Baden Baden, Hans Hollein

Duration: 5 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2007

Date story went live: 23 December 2008