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The Bronx Developmental Center


Westbeth Artists' Housing
Richard Meier Architect
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Richard Kaplan, he’s a friend of mine, you know Richard?

[Q] Yes, of course.

And his father and the Kaplan Foundation got together with the National Endowment for the Arts to create artists' housing in the... in the Village, in the abandoned building which had belonged to Bell Telephone Laboratories, which were 13 inter-connected buildings. And Richard said to me one day, would I go down and look at it with him because they wanted to make this renovation and I did. And I remember walking through the place that was a mess, really, just... and Richard said, you know, I’d love to do this but I can’t because the family foundation is, sort of,  part of the support and...

[Q] That's his work.

And would I be interested? So I said, sure and so I... they said but we have to do all the drawings in nine months and start construction in nine months otherwise we lose the financing. So we worked day and night and produced the drawings for Westbeth, to convert it to artists' housing. And since it was subsidised FHA finance, there was a limit that people would pay in terms of rent, so someone would get a duplex studio and an apartment and pay a hundred and something dollars a month. And the idea was those artists would move out after two years and younger artists who were struggling would move in. The problem was there was no mechanism for moving them out and so they’re still living there today, paying $180 a month.  Amazing, that’s amazing, those who are still alive.

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: Kaplan Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Westbeth Artists' Housing, Richard Kaplan

Duration: 1 minute, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2007

Date story went live: 23 December 2008