Richard Meier retires as his eponymous firm changes its name and restructures

The Big Shakeup

Richard Meier retires as his eponymous firm changes its name and restructures

(Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners/AN file photo)

Richard Meier & Partners Architects—now known only as Meier Partners—has announced that its founder, Pritzker Prize-winning architect and abstract artist Richard Meier, has retired from the New York-based firm which he established in 1963. Architectural Record first broke the news of 86-year-old Meier’s formal departure on Wednesday afternoon.

In announcing the change and the departure of the 86-year-old Meier, the firm also revealed major organizational shuffling at the firm. Dukho Yeon, a firm veteran of 30 years, is now partner and lead designer, while George H. Miller, previously managing partner of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, has been named a partner and chief operating officer. While in charge, Meier himself oversaw the completion of over 130 buildings on four continents over the course of a celebrated career that spanned nearly six decades and ultimately concluded in a cloud of scandal.

“As leaders of Meier Partners, Yeon and Miller will expand on the firm’s rich legacy of more than half a century of visionary design,” reads a June 23 news release from Meier Partners. “They remain committed to creating uplifting architecture, distinguished by the features that have long been the hallmark of the practice: an emphasis on lyrical composition, a passion for exquisite materiality, and a reverence for natural light.”

Additionally, the Los Angeles-based office of Richard Meier & Partners will become STUDIOpractice, an independent firm headed by Michael Palladino and Jim Crawford, who led Meier’s L.A. office for 25 years. Palladino will continuing working with Meier Partners on “select projects” as a consulting partner.

Meanwhile, Richard Meier’s daughter, the furniture designer Ana Meier, will continue in her role as advisor to Meier Partners and will led a new research initiative in collaboration with Yeon that focuses on the vast importance of natural light in architectural design.

While this is the first time that the formal retirement of Meier, who will remain “available for consultation by clients upon request,” has been announced, it isn’t exactly the first time he has stepped aside from his work at the firm. In March 2018, Meier announced that he would take a six-month leave of absence immediately after the New York Times published an article in which five women, including four that had worked with Meier as employees at the firm, brought forth allegations of sexual harassment and assault. In response, Meier issued an apology, saying that he was “deeply troubled and embarrassed by the accounts of several women who were offended by my words and actions.” Following the publication of the initial investigation, several other women, all of them former employees of the firm, later came forward to the Times with similarly troubling encounters with Meier.

The explosive allegations, made during the height of the #MeToo movement, rocked the architecture world. The fallout was remarkably swift. Clients distanced themselves from the famous architect, Sotheby’s scrapped a solo show of his work, and Cornell University cut ties with Meier, an act that involved the school declining an endowment to name its department chair after him while also reviewing his past donations. The Newark, New Jersey-born Meier graduated from Cornell with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1957 before going on to briefly work with Skidmore, Owings & Merill, and then Marcel Breuer before establishing his own practice.

The firm announced that Meier would step back from day-to-day activity in October 2018, seven months after his six-month leave of absence concluded. Bernhard Karpf was then promoted to managing principal, and three staffers—Vivian Lee, Reynolds Logan, and Yeon—were named principals. Karpf, Lee, and Logan have all since departed.

Named as Pritzker laureate in 1984 (the prestigious prize’s sixth laureate overall) and the recipient of the AIA Gold Medal in 1997, Meier has designed a number of iconic buildings including the Getty Center in Los Angeles, San Jose City Hall, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, Cornell’s Weill Hall, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, the now-closed Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television & Radio), and On Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

“The future we envision at Meier Partners will build on our proven record of exceptional architecture to create work that is both relevant for our time and meaningful to society,” said Yeon in a statement. “We are committed to creating studio-crafted designs that become immersive architectural experiences that bring back optimism and inspiration, especially after the past year of global challenges. Our talented and fast-growing, reinvigorated team is working on a new generation of projects that I am confident will evolve our legacy and redefine the firm and the industry as we move forward.”

AN has reached out to Meier Partners for additional comment on the changes and will update this article accordingly when we hear back.