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My small-scale work influenced my large-scale projects


Photographing architecture is more than art
Richard Meier Architect
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I remember after the Smith House was finished one of the newspapers in London, I don't remember which one, wanted to run an article on their Sunday magazine section. And they asked a photographer who I knew, I didn't know him well, but I knew him, named René Burri to go up and shoot... take photographs of the house for the newspaper.  So I went up. It was an autumn day and we went up there. It was a beautiful fall day. Colors of the leaves all around were just changing and he was standing there getting ready to take a photograph of the house. And the people who lived next door were burning leaves, and there was smoke coming from the fire of the leaves and kind of enveloping the house. I said: 'Well, hold on, René, we can't take...' 'Oh, this is perfect, this is perfect!' He loved it and then he, sort of, took a branch that was on the ground, and kind of held it up in front of the camera and was shooting the house through the branch. I said: 'That's no way to look at architecture'. I said: 'He's a friend of mine, hey, get that branch out of there'.  So that's why I said, look, I need someone who understands architecture, not who's just making, you know, pretty pictures to photograph. And I said... Ezra Stoller, who I had known of and I respected, seemed to me to be the best. And I said, you know, I want someone who's just going to look at the building and figure out, you know, how do you show it? And that's how I got to Ezra. But you know, it's sort of, like learning to walk. You know, you take one step at a time and soon you know... you know how to do it.

[Q] And you kept that thoughout your careeer?

Yeah, yeah.  Well, Ezra was great to work with, you know... I would go with him and we'd sit. I'd say: 'Ezra, you know, come on, take the...' 'No, the light's not quite right'. You know, he knew, in terms of what... where the light should be for every picture.

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: Smith House, René Burri, Ezra Stoller

Duration: 2 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2007

Date story went live: 23 December 2008