It was a heavy evening on June 3 at the Taschen bookstore in Soho, where Richard Meier was signing copies of his latest tome, Richard Meier & Partners: Complete Works, 1963-2008 (Taschen, $150). A clutch of photographers wanted him to pose hoisting a copy. “It weighs too much,” he complained.
The event, co-sponsored by AN, attracted a modest crowd where quite a few copies of the not inexpensive book were sold. Fans and old friends, among them Massimo Vignelli, who designed the book, all queued up to give the architect’s wrist a workout, while journalists swooped in and out. The man from New York wanted to know: What Manhattan building makes you cringe most? Answer: A building on the lower West Side that is thankfully out of sight of Meier’s Perry Street trio. Page Six asked: Where would you most want to build next in Manhattan? The diplomatic response was that Meier would most like to see the three towers he’s already designed for the Con Ed site south of the United Nations completed. Yes, but after, that? No, but those would be great to see built just as they are shown in the book. Next? A correspondent from Architectural Record groused that it was impossible to get Meier to talk about new projects with so many people around, while a Canadian style-magazine reporter likewise gave up posing lifestyle questions. (Hint: He likes white!)
Mid-event, a woman presented herself as wanting a copy signed to “Calvin Klein.” It turned out that Lucy O’Laughlin and her financier husband Gil Lamphere are the fashion designer’s neighbors, having bought the penthouse duplex that once belonged to Martha Stewart in the north Perry Street tower for $6.6 million. While Meier was signing, O’Laughlin asked for some free architectural advice concerning what kind of staircase she should install in her new duplex. Looking inscrutably blank, Meier suggested she ask Calvin what he did at his triplex (designed by John Pawson). She bought another copy of the book.
During a lull, AN asked Meier if he was upset about the new mayor of Rome vowing in his acceptance speech last month that he would tear down Meier’s Ara Pacis, built in 2006 to house an Augustine-era altar piece. Not at all, the architect replied. In fact, the brash statement boosted tourism so much that the building is now the third most visited site in Rome, after St. Peter’s and the Colosseum. “The people have been reawakened to its being there,” Meier said, “so it’s safe for now.”