At 49, Richard Meier was the youngest architect to receive his profession's highest accolade, the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Shortly after receiving that honor, he was awarded what is probably one of the twentieth century's most important commissions, the design of The Getty Center, the Los Angeles art complex funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust.

Explaining his own roots, Meier says, "Le Corbusier was a great influence, but there are many influences and they are constantly changing. Frank Lloyd Wright was a great architect, and I could not have done my parent's house the way that I did, without being overwhelmed by Falling Water." Meier continued, "We are all affected by LeCorbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Alvar Aalto, and Mies van der Rohe. But no less than Bramante, Borromini and Bernini. Architecture is a tradition, a long continuum. Whether we break with tradition or enhance it, we are still connected to that past."

In 1963, he established his private practice, and working from his apartment, launched the business with a commission for his mother and father, a residence in Essex Fells, New Jersey. In 1965, one of his early residential commissions, Smith House in Darien, Connecticut propelled him into national prominence. Looking back on it now, Meier spoke of "the clarity of the building, the openness, the direct articulation of private and public spaces, how it relates to the land and water." He added, "It's been over 17 years, and what was innovative and captured a great many people's imagination and admiration then, is already a part of our language, and somewhat taken for granted today."

Other commissions for private homes followed, along with some more public projects. In 1967, he began work on the conversion of the old Bell Telephone Laboratories in Manhattan's Greenwich Village to accommodate some 1200 people in 383 apartment units. The result was hailed in the architectural community as the first evidence that ultimately, Meier's greatest achievements might lie in larger-scaled more public works. "This too is an example of how quickly we assimilate," said Meier. "'The phrase, 'adaptive re-use,' wasn't even in the language then. We were really pioneering a new area."

In 1979, after devoting nearly five years of work to it, Meier completed another work, which prompted Ada Louise Huxtable to write in the New York Times, that the building advances "conventional modernist practice provocatively beyond established limits." The building referred to is known as The Atheneum, situated on the banks of the Wabash River in the restoration community of New Harmony, Indiana.

On an even grander scale, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia was completed in 1983. It opened to enormous media attention and Paul Goldberger, architecture critic of the New York Times, wrote in the June, 1983 issue of Vogue: "It is no accident, then, that Richard Meier is becoming one of the preeminent architects of museums."

In addition to the High Museum, he has designed a major museum for Frankfurt, Germany, an addition to the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa, as well as many other types of commissions around the world.

Richard Meier, architect of the recently acclaimed High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as many other world-wide public projects and private residences over the past two decades, was today named the 1984 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. He is the sixth architect in the world to be so honored.

Consisting of a $100,000 tax-free grant and a bronze sculpture by Henry Moore, the international Pritzker Architecture Prize was established in 1979 to reward a creative endeavor not honored by the Nobel Prizes. Jay A. Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, which established the prize, presented the check today, and will present the sculpture in a ceremony at the National Gallery of Art on May 15.

A prestigious panel of jurors reviews nominations from around the world each year to make the selection. The jurors this year were Giovanni Agnelli, Chairman of Fiat, Torino, Italy; J. Carter Brown, Director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.; Arata Isozaki, noted Japanese architect; Philip Johnson, 1979 Pritzker Prize Laureate; J. Irwin Miller, Chairman, Executive and Finance Committees, Cummins Engine Company; Kevin Roche, 1982 Pritzker Prize Laureate; and Thomas J. Watson, Jr., Chairman Emeritus, IBM Corporation. Jurors in years past have included the late Lord Clark of Saltwood, England and Cesar Pelli, Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University.

Carleton Smith, secretary to the jury and chairman of the International Awards Foundation, who announced the name of the Laureate at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum today, stated that Meier was the unanimous choice of the jury.

He quoted the jury's citation as follows: "We honor Richard Meier for his single-minded pursuit of new directions in contemporary architecture. In his search for clarity and his experiments in balancing light, forms, and space, he has created works that are personal, vigorous, original.

"His houses, seminary, museums and public buildings have stretched and enriched our imaging, our thinking, our wanting, and perhaps our doing. They are intended not to overwhelm but to celebrate."

He concluded, "What he has achieved is only prologue to the compelling new experiences we anticipate from his drawing board."

At 49, Meier is the youngest architect to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. In addition to the Laureates already named as jurors, other previous winners have been Luis Barragán of Mexico in 1980, James Stirling of Great Britain in 1981, and Ieoh Ming Pei of the United States in 1983.

Meier, whose firm is in New York, has built museums, commercial buildings, housing, educational and medical facilities, as well as residences. High Twin Parks Northeast Housing in the Bronx, Smith House, Westbeth Artists' Housing, Douglas House, Bronx Developmental Center, Hartford Seminary and the High Museum of Art have all won National Honor Awards from the American Institute of Architects.

Meier's numerous other awards include the Arnold Brunner Memorial Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1972, the R.S. Reynolds Memorial Award in 1977, and awards of excellence from both Architectural Record and Progressive Architecture magazines.

His projects, furniture, collages and architectural drawings have been widely exhibited throughout the world, and he has lectured extensively in this country and abroad. His work has been published in many books and periodicals. He became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1976, and this past year was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.

We honor Richard Meier for his single-minded pursuit of the essence of modern architecture. He has broadened its range of forms to make it responsive to the expectations of our time.

In his search for clarity and his experiments in balancing light and space, he has created structures which are personal, vigorous, original.

What he has achieved is only prologue to the compelling new experiences we anticipate from his drawing board.

Jury Members

J. Carter Brown (Chairman)
Giovanni Agnelli
Arata Isozaki
Philip Johnson
J. Irwin Miller
Kevin Roche
Thomas J. Watson, Jr.
Carleton Smith (Secretary to the Jury)
Arthur Drexler (Consultant to the Jury)

The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. was created in 1937 by a joint resolution of Congress, accepting the gift of financier and art collector Andrew W. Mellon. The paintings and works of sculpture given by Andrew Mellon upon his death in 1937 have formed a nucleus of high quality around which the collections have grown. Funds for the construction of the West Building were provided by The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust. On March 17, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted the completed building and the collections on behalf of the people of the United States of America.

The Gallery's East Building, located on land set aside in the original Congressional resolution, was opened in 1978. Designed by Pritzker laureate I.M. Pei, the dramatic geometry responds well to the imposing 1941 West Building, which is situated across a plaza. To correspond in texture and color to the original building, the new one is faced inside and out with lavender-pink marble from the same quarry in Tennessee. Bridges and mezzanines create powerful vertical spaces throughout the East Building. When visitors leave one exhibition, they return to the atrium before entering another one. The triangular layout of the floor plan generates a sense of exploration. The atrium's indoor garden, which is larger than one-third of an acre, is roofed by a "space-frame" of glass pyramids. It was in this impressive space that the 1984 Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremony, honoring Richard Meier, was held.


Read Richard Meier's Ceremony Acceptance Speech

Read Jay Pritzker's Ceremony Speech


National Gallery of Art


Ceremony Highlights

Full Ceremony