Just got back from seeing the works of legend Richard Meier, showcased at the JJ College of Architecture, Mumbai. The exhibition and lecture was organised and got to India by Indian Architect & Builder (IA&B), the leading architecture and design magazine in India. With Essar Steel being the patrons.
The work exhibited, though less in quantum, was well displayed and what I loved especially were the neatly finished models in the precisely made acrylic boxes. Talk of great finish!
Also the sketches… I love seeing sketches made by master architects- there’s a certain quality that awes even through a scribble.
On a personal note, I prefer Richard Meier’s older work as compared to the newer ones. There’s a definite sense of composition, play of light and inter-relation of mass and void. Like my friend Ruta and I were discussing, whilst in college we liked the work, but never really looked at it as having that wow factor. But now, as professionals, when we see the work, we can sense the way the mind thought then; in a deliberate and focused yet seemingly casual attempt at creating architecture.
Where the design is clear and also minimal, but great thought has gone behind even the slight angle of a certain mass, or the placing of the different elements, which then sets the structure apart from its contemporaries. Every dot, line and shape has been carefully worked out in context with each other. Nothing is without thought, or clarity of thought… Seeing the work took me back to college days and basic design, wherein we were taught the fundamentals of composition.
I especially liked the Jubilee Church. And the way light filters in from all over, especially behind the main altar. Would love to experience that space!
The other interesting projects were the Arp Musuem and the houses- Neugebauer and Malibu. And of course, the Getty Centre.
Since Richard Meier was not able to come thanks to a surgery, his partner from New York, Scott Johnson took over the presentation. He was introduced on stage by Shekhar Ghanti, an architect who has been working with Meier for the past 11 years.
Ghanti recounted few anecdotes that gave a good insight to Meier as a man, architect and boss. And it would have been great if the presentation was also given by Ghanti… Scott Johnson was either too nervous or was in a hurry to get some place, because he rambled through the entire presentation of works, with a continuous clicking of the ‘forward’ button which didn’t give us much chance to even see the slides properly. He unfortunately tried to show a entire life’s work in an hour… which obviously failed to get through to the audience.
With Meier not being in town, and hordes of people coming from all over to actually hear him, it would have made sense for Johnson to show limited works and explain them in depth. So that we understood the process of the thinking, the persona of the man and the details of the project, which would have softened Meier’s absence to a great deal. What Johnson spoke was something we could pick from magazines or online. What was very crucial was the fact we didn’t get a chance to know Richard Meier, expect for the few stories told by Ghanti.
And I really felt like saying, ‘Beam up Scottie or beam me up!’ But beam he should, because the work that has gone into the display as well as the general feedback, inspite of a rather lacklustre talk, has been great! Most people, including me, went back home feeling very slightly disappointed, but more happy to have experienced this event nevertheless.
So Richard Meier, hope you recuperate very soon. And come to India when possible so that we can have that chance and honour of seeing a legend live in action. À votre santé!