The chair of the Department of Architecture in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning (AAP) will bear the name of one of the college’s renowned alumni: Richard Meier, B.Arch. ’56.
The Richard Meier Chair of the Department of Architecture was announced by the college and by Richard Meier & Partners Architects, Meier’s New York City- and Los Angeles-based practice for 55 years.
Meier honors his training at Cornell with the endowed position. Andrea Simitch, B.Arch. ’79, associate professor and chair of architecture, will be first to hold the title.
Kent Kleinman, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of AAP, said: “Architecture at Cornell is widely recognized as the preeminent program of its kind, and Richard’s renown spans every corner of the globe and has no equal. The Richard Meier Chair of the Department of Architecture at Cornell University is a match of perfection. Indeed, it seems that the department chair position, which has been unnamed since the founding of the program almost 150 years ago, has waited for just such a pairing.”
Meier, whose signature architectural style is known as “Meier White,” designed Weill Hall, the life sciences technology building that opened on campus in 2008. He is the only Cornellian to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered the field’s highest honor.
“Richard Meier’s work as an architect and an artist has inspired me profoundly over the years,” Simitch said. “From the time he made an appearance in the book ‘Five Architects’ (1975), where he presented an architecture that had a clarity and connected the past to the present, Meier had a way of explaining, of diagramming architecture that inspired pedagogic strategies around the world, and especially at Cornell.”
The Meier family’s previous support of the department’s students and faculty has included the Richard Meier Assistant Professorship in Architecture for young faculty, established in 2010 (first held by Caroline O’Donnell and now Luben Dimcheff). Their support also includes the Richard Meier Graduate Scholarship and the Ana Meier Graduate Scholarship for promising students in the Master of Architecture degree program, as well as regular contributions to the Cornell Annual Fund.
“Richard Meier’s support for Cornell is extraordinary,” said Jan Rock Zubrow ’77, chair of the Board of Trustees Executive Committee. “The board is grateful and honored that this legendary architect has given so generously of his time, wisdom, creativity and treasure to ensure that Cornell’s architecture program remains a benchmark of excellence worldwide.”
Meier established his practice in New York City in 1963, and his career has included major civic commissions such as courthouses, city halls, museums and corporate headquarters in the United States, Europe and Asia. His most well-known projects include The Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Jubilee Church in Rome, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona. Richard Meier & Partners is currently completing projects in Germany, Taiwan, Colombia and Mexico.
“In the ranking of architecture schools throughout the country, Cornell invariably comes out on top in terms of undergraduate education in architecture,” Meier said. “That’s a wonderful thing. I think that’s a great tribute to the faculty and to the chair of the department.”
He added that AAP “has a fairly diversified student population. They learn from other students as much as they learn from the faculty, and it creates a wonderful give-and-take throughout their education.”
Meier said he valued the opportunity to take electives at Cornell while he was an architecture student, “to sort of branch out a little bit and learn things in other departments. When I was there I was in a class with [Vladimir] Nabokov in Russian literature, and Arch Dotson in the government department became a great friend.” Meier designed the house that Arch and Esther Dotson (then a professor of the history of art) built in Ithaca in 1966.
In addition to the Pritzker Prize in 1984, his numerous awards include the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal in 1997; the Praemium Imperiale for lifetime achievement in the arts from the Japanese government in 1997; a Medal of Honor from the AIA New York Chapter in 1980 and a Gold Medal from the Los Angeles Chapter in 1998.
Meier is a fellow of the AIA and of the Royal Institute of British Architects, which awarded him its Royal Gold Medal in 1989. The French government named him a Commander of Arts and Letters in 1992, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995. He has served on the boards of trustees of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the American Academy in Rome and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which gave him the Gold Medal for Architecture in 2008.
“Architectural pedagogy at Cornell is fundamentally rooted in processes of making, and Richard Meier’s creative process – one that moves freely between art and architecture, drawings and sculpture, collages and models – is one that has deeply informed that pedagogy,” Simitch said. “His capacity to imagine architecture both as abstract composition and occupiable space is a continuing part of his legacy today at Cornell.”
Editor’s note, March 13, 2018: Following allegations of sexual misconduct by Richard Meier, the College of Architecture, Art and Planning will be declining Meier’s gift to name the department chair. Read the statement by Kent Kleinman, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean.