Dictionary of Art and Artists



History of

Architecture and Sculpture



















Part I. ARCHITECTURE - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
Part II. ARCHITECTURE - 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
Part III. ARCHITECTURE - 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29



It was Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown who redefined the tasks of architecture from a sociological understanding of visual communication. Subject of their analysis were the typical characteristics of the radically-commercialized American "Main Street". In their search for new maxims for the design of urban spaces, they oriented themselves towards the subjective daily perceptions of pedestrians and car drivers. Accordingly, in their book "Learning from Las Vegas", they related the flood of image-laden advertising and neon signs on the Las Vegas Strip to architectural symbols. The chaotic state of innercity organization demands more than the "simple" and "clean" solutions of the functional school. For unlike a work of art in a museum, architecture is always perceived in an urban setting. It cannot escape direct confrontation and competition with the signals of consumerism and traffic.

The pictorial and commercial-strip qualities of architecture now became increasingly important. The symbolic character of the facade was analytically separated from the constructive and functional elements of the building. From this Venturi and Scott Brown deduced the existence of two basic architecture manifestations. "Where the architectural systems of space, structure, and program are submerged and distorted by an overall symbolic form", they speak of a "duck" - in honour of a small drive-in diner whose exterior indeed had the shape of a duck. The opposite of this is the "decorated shed", in which "systems of space and structure are directly at the service of program, and ornament is applied independently of them". They thus negate the "classical" understanding of Modernism, whereby the value of a building arises from its successful fusion of construction and programme.

The interplay between facade and form is made apparent in the Guild House Retirement Home in Philadelphia. The strongly axial central projection with its white base, the granite pillar before the entrance, the flat arched window at the top and the symmetrical wings with fine ribboning at the level of the penultimate floor articulate the front with a variety of historical echoes. These are clearly contradicted by the perforated plates of the balcony parapets, the ferroconcrete supports revealed behind the glazed arch and the "Guild House" sign, which could just as well stand above a shop door. The reverse perspective of the graduation of window size and the delicate slits in the centre bay which openly acknowledge the superficial nature of the brick facade represent the essential architectural vernacular of the Venturi, Rauch & Scott Brown partnership. Single elements are extracted from their usual surroundings and integrated into the composition in such a way that they function like quotes, alluding to conventional perspectives without taking them any further. Thus, in the Guild House, any hint of actual representation and monumentality is repressed by countermeasures of a disillusioning nature. Against compulsively uniform building design, devoted to the fetish that "even less is even more", Venturi set an "architecture of complexity and contradiction", which "is not, however, to be confused with a picturesque architecture or an architecture of the subjectively expressive will to create". The pictorial "building blocks" should correspond - objectively - to task and situation. Site is thereby made significant: historical set pieces and the respect for local forms and materials lead to the recovery of identificatory characteristics of architecture, perhaps even of home. This also seems to apply to the work of Charles Moore, whose very personal style is won from a wealth of traditional motifs. He works with superimposed, often disproportioned false facades and interrupted walls developed from a playful "house within a house" concept. His pleasure in architecture is clearly evident.

's Piazza d
'Italia in New Orleans is a climax of such an understanding of design. The arrangement is accompanied by a stage setting of wittily-manipulated orders of classical columns: fine water jets trace Doric fluting, Tuscanorder columns are made of slit steel, capitals are crowned with neon tubes. Reproduction is determined by elision,- that which is omitted is just as symbolic as that which is included. It was this that made the Piazza a typical Post-Modern subject for architecture critic Charles Jencks: "A Post-Modern building speaks, to give a brief definition, to at least two groups at once: architects and an interested minority who concern themselves with specific architectural problems, and the general public or local visitors who are concerned with questions of comfort, traditional construction methods and their style of living." This "double coding" can only be successful, however, where symbolic references resist overstatement and remain open in their interpretation.

Supermarket renovations carried out by the SITE (Sculpture in the Environment! group for BEST Products combine paradox with destruction,- the architects themselves spoke of "De-architecture": "Architecture is regarded, in the Houston project, as a matrix for art ideas and as a "found object" - or the "subject matter" for art, rather than the objective of design. The building also uses architecture as a means of social and psychological commentary, as opposed to an exploration of form, space, and structure." Peeling, crumbling and seemingly pointlessly disintegrating facades pose an obvious contradiction to the lavish, precise execution of the brickwork. Chaos is mastered. In these "take-another-look" designs, the customer remains safe - a subtle promise within the chaotic environment of the American suburb. The secular box behind the facade is not affected by the transformation, and neither is the sign, smallest common denominator of this provocative corporate identity.



On the occasion of a CASE (Conference of Architects for the Study of the Environment] symposium in 1969, an exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art in New York introduced five previously barely-known architects. These were Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk and Richard Meier, called The New York Five after the title of the accompanying publication, "Five Architects". The press, in an allusion to the sparkling white facades of their houses, soon had their own name for the group: the Whites. For Richard Meier it was a question not of reduction but simply of the best choice. "It is against a white surface that one best appreciates the play of light and shadow, solids and voids. For this reason white has traditionally been taken as a symbol of purity and clarity, of perfection ... Goethe said, 'Color is the paint of light'. Whiteness, perhaps, is the memory and the anticipation of color ... Whiteness is one of the characteristic qualities of my work; I use it to clarify architecture concepts and heighten the power of visual form." The attention attracted by the rigidly black-and-white drawings and first buildings by the Five arose from a combination of their mathematical play of ideas with an artistic handwriting. They were unmistakably oriented towards the classics of Modernism, above all Le Corbusier's villas of the twenties, but also towards the buildings of Italian Rationalism, such as by Giuseppe Terragni; they thus fell within the traditions of architectural history. Their published theories were rather more difficult to follow, however, and remote from everyday building practice.

The theoretical excursions of Peter Eisenman in particular
- for the most part expressed in a series of analytical transformation drawings - represent a radical confession of faith in an autonomous architecture which entirely frees itself from criteria of habitability. The rejection of the positivistic character of form and function finds its correlation in "anastrophic manipulation", the conscious inversion of the terms of architectural language. Modernism - as he sees it -mirrors man's displacement from the centre of the world and can thus by no means be considered complete. The architectural object becomes the vehicle of contradictions to which its design reacts with the strategies of intersection, rotation and omission. Line, plane and volume appear as geometric variables in competition with support, wall and space. The design concept takes pride of place: the house actually built is ultimately just a more complex form of its representation. It therefore looks - according to Eisenman - like "a cardboard model and demands to be read in a conceptual manner ... whereby you turn it around in your mind as you would a model."

John Hejduk is considered, alongside Eisenman, the leading theoretician of the Five. Designs such as his Diamond Houses remained drawing-board experiments. Their construction in storey slabs, reminiscent of Le Corbusier's "Dom-ino" system, their support grid and their in-built elements turned through an angle of 45 degrees within the cube are the apparent motifs of his research on architectural syntax. "The mysteries of central-peripheral-frontal-diagonal-concave-convex, ... the arguments of two-dimensional and one-dimensional space, ... the concepts of configurations, the static and the dynamic: everything begins to take on the form of a vocabulary." Charles Gwathmey and Richard Meier, on the other hand, have not only built in considerable quantity but have also retained a high degree of lucidity in their play of rotating, intersecting wall planes and volumes. Meier bases his designs on three pairs of reference criteria: program and site, entry and circulation, structure and enclosure. The environment dictates axes and vanishing points to which the building reacts. This can be seen particularly clearly in Meier's Atheneum, an information centre for visitors to the history-laden town of New Harmony. In reaction to the accompanying course of the river and the city grid, wall slabs break through the cube at angles of 5 and 45 degrees. Views through and beyond its structures make interrelationships the subject of this architecture.

External relationships cannot become such central themes in residential housing, where inner organization forms the leitmotif. !t is derived from the development of the spatial program, whereby ramps, vistas and graduated levels are employed to deliberate effect. Charles Gwathmey exploits the possibilities offered by overlapping layers of space to arrive at buildings with very clear lines. The core of the design is often a "joint" at which vertically or horizontally-offset bodies meet. Gwathmey progressed from strictly cubic and cylindrical forms to increasingly dynamic, complex spatial constructions animated by a wealth of inner moments of tension.

Michael Graves was rather more loosely related to the group and soon distanced himself in his work from the crystalline clarity of his colleagues. With his cultivation of "constructed decoration", single quotational elements thrust themselves to the fore. Although his early Hanselmann House, with its positive-negative interplay of two house cubes and its "layered" facade, pays conceptual homage to the design programme of the Whites, the latters' disciplined boundaries are quickly violated by murals suggesting Pop mutations of Cubist or Purist art of the twenties.




Late Modernism

Since 1970 architecture has been obsessed with breaking the tyranny of the cubeand the High Modernism it stands for. In consequence, a wide range of tendencies has arisen, representing almost every conceivable point of view. They have made architecture perhaps the most vital of the arts in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Like so much else in contemporary art, architecture has become theory-bound. Yet once the dust has settled, we may simplify these bewildering categories, with their equally confusing terminology, into Late Modernism, Post-Modernism, and Deconstructivism. They are separated only by the degree to which they challenge the basic principles of High Modernism.


Late Modernism began innocuously enough as an attempt to introduce greater variety of form and material, but ended in the segmentation of space and use of "high-tech" finishes that are the hallmarks of late-twentieth-century buildings. An important early example of this process is The Atheneum at New Harmony, Indiana (fig.
1208), by Richard Meier (born 1934). In its departure from the idealism of High Modernism, it seemingly constitutes an ironic commentary on the Utopian vision of this historic settlement, which was founded in 1815 by George Rapp and sold ten years later to the Scottish reformer Robert Owen, who established a shortlived Socialist society. The Atheneum reflects Meier's principal concerns: program and site, entry and circulation, structure and enclosure. Its placement within the landscape has been judiciously calculated, with equally careful consideration given to its function as a visitors' center. The inspiration of Le Corbusier's Savoye House (fig. 1186) of nearly a half-century earlier is evident in the pristine white surfaces, which lend the building a sense of clarity. The vocabulary, too, remains essentially Cubist (compare fig. 1062).

To that extent, the Atheneum falls well within the modern tradition. Yet it looks like Le Corbusier's classic statement exploded from within. The building fairly bristles with external stairways and ramps, intersecting planes and jutting walls, and false structural elements that "frame" the view. These conspire to disrupt the facade and dissolve the boundary with the surrounding environment, so that the structure lacks the self-containment of the International Style. As we might expect, the interior is an equally dynamic play on Savoye House: spatial relations are skewed by distorting forms and rotating them off-axis. Clearly Meier has pushed the syntax of High Modernism to its limits. Beyond this lies only Post-Modernism.

1208. RICHARD MEIER. The Atheneum, New Harmony, Indiana. 1975-79

Richard Meier. The Atheneum in New Harmony, Indiana

Richard Meier. The Atheneum in New Harmony, Indiana


Richard Meier

Richard Meier, in full Richard Alan Meier (born Oct. 12, 1934, Newark, N.J., U.S.), American architect noted for his refinements of and variations on classic Modernist principles: pure geometry, open space, and an emphasis on light.

Meier graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. His early experience included work with the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill in New York City and with Marcel Breuer, a noted exponent of the International style of architecture. In 1963 Meier formed his own firm. Early on he received critical acclaim for the Smith House (1965–67) in Darien, Conn., the first of his so-called white buildings, which clearly built upon the pristine Modernism of Le Corbusier’s work in the 1920s and ’30s. During this period he formed a loose association with a group of young architects, known as the “New York Five,” who advocated a return to Modernist, rational architecture. He received more attention for his Douglas House (1971–73), an archetypal example of his work, located in Harbor Springs, Mich. Like much of his work, it features intersecting planes, and, in its crisp geometric whiteness, it provides a sharp contrast to the natural setting that surrounds it.

Building upon the success of his series of spectacular private residences, starting in the mid-1970s Meier began to receive large public commissions, including the Atheneum (1975–79) in New Harmony, Ind.; the Museum of Decorative Arts (1979–85) in Frankfurt am Main, Germany; the High Museum of Art (1980–83) in Atlanta, Ga.; the City Hall and Library (1986–95) in The Hague, Neth.; and the Museum of Contemporary Art (1987–95) in Barcelona, Spain. These structures are characterized by geometric clarity and order, which are often punctuated by curving ramps and railings, and by a contrast between the light-filled, transparent surfaces of public spaces and the solid white surfaces of interior, private spaces. Indeed, they all embody Meier’s description of his goals: “I am expanding and elaborating on what I consider to be the formal base of the Modern movement.…I work with volume and surface, I manipulate forms in light, changes in scale and view, movement and stasis.” Although some critics have found these structures too austere and reminiscent of past architectural achievement, others have applauded their formal beauty and welcomed their purity in the midst of the often jumbled forms of postmodernist architecture.

From 1985 to 1997 Meier focused much of his attention on the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Comprised of six principal buildings that house the Getty collection and educational facilities, the centre is built of honey-coloured travertine complemented by aluminum panels. The multiple purposes of the complex—from public galleries to private study rooms—gave Meier a chance to explore the contrast between public and private spaces as never before, and its positioning in the hills of Los Angeles allowed Meier an optimum opportunity to explore the effects of light. The structure has become a popular tourist destination. Another of Meier’s Los Angeles projects is the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Center (completed 2008), the home of the visual arts program on the north campus of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Meier received numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and other architectural associations. In 1984 he won the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Encyclopædia Britannica


Richard Meier. Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California.

Richard Meier. Museum of Television and Radio in Beverly Hills, California

Richard Meier. Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art

Richard Meier. Smith House in Darien, Connecticut, 1965-1967

Richard Meier. Weinstein House in Old Westbury, New York, 1969-1971

Richard Meier. Weinstein House in Old Westbury, New York, 1969-1971

Richard Meier. Weinstein House in Old Westbury, New York, 1969-1971

Plan of the first floor and section

Richard Meier. Saltzman House, East Hampton, New York, 1967-1969

Richard Meier. Douglas House, Harbor Spring, New York, 1971-1973

Richard Meier. Bridgeport Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut,

Richard Meier.
Church Dio Padre Misericordioso (Jubilee Church
), Rome


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