ARCHITECTS who take into consideration themselves artists space understandably delighted when their job-related is featured in museums, but Richard Meier, the designer of the Getty facility in Los Angeles, has actually special factor to feel honored. The Musee du Jeu de Paume in Paris has chosen Mr. Meier, one American, as the subject of the first-ever architecture exhibition. And also in doing so, the has collection out to reinforce the notion that design is art.

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True, because that Paris, this is not precisely a revolutionary idea. Parisians, and also indeed foreigners, have actually long regarded this city together an exquisite urban sculpture. As soon as the Government started a daring regime of Grands Travaux, or great Works, in the 1980's, it invite ''artistic'' architects to take part in style competitions. Parisians consequently judged the results mostly for your esthetic worth -- and they remembered the name of the architects responsible because that both the great and the bad.

Yet even the French are not accustomed to studying structures through photographs, drawings and also models. Therefore ''Richard Meier Architect,'' i m sorry runs through Sept. 26, is something of an experiment. Until now, architectural shows organized in the Georges Pompidou facility have drawn mainly specialists. Yet with a brand-new Cite de l'Architecture being planned because that Paris in 2002, the Jeu de Paume, top top the ar de la Concorde, is a an excellent place come gauge basic interest in architecture.

The present opened on July 13, and also the public solution has been encouraging. Architects and architectural students were to be meant to avoid by, yet museum officials claimed many civilization were visiting out of thin curiosity and also then lingering together the show captured their attention.

''People prefer models,'' Mr. Meier had actually predicted v a cheeky smile.

The exhibition is definitely people friendly. 3 naturally-lighted top galleries display comprehensive models the 24 the Mr. Meier's buildings. The very first room gift his corporate and public-sector projects, including a stunning depiction of a proposal (ultimately rejected) because that a Madison Square Garden site redevelopment. The arrangement envisioned 3 high-rise office blocks, which would have actually been Mr. Meier's first-ever skyscrapers. The 2nd gallery is devoted to the Getty Center, and the last is offered over to the private homes that very first won that recognition and to the museums the have soaked up much that his attention in the last 2 decades.

''I haven't seen many of these models because that years,'' said Mr. Meier, a tall, 64-year-old white-haired new Yorker, mirroring a visitor around the exhibition, ''and of food I have actually never viewed them together favor this. They have actually been scattered around. What I like is that it is work done over 35 years, however it holds together, as if it had been arranged for one exhibition.''

So, he was inevitably asked, is this an exhibition that art?

''Architects think that architecture is one art,'' he said, ''but nothing here was intended to be a work to be presented in a museum. Nobody is saying any kind of one illustration is a work-related of art. That is part of the making of a job-related of architecture. And also understanding this deserve to lead to understanding the arts of architecture. Even better, it might lead civilization to check out the buildings.''

Paris has actually only one of Mr. Meier's works, the headquarters of Canal Plus, a French cable network. It's a dazzling white glass-fronted structure on the Seine, and the channel has organized guided tourism of it come coincide v the exhibition. To examine his various other works, visitors need to travel come the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Italy and, that course, the unified States. On the various other hand, this show, which has actually been arranged by the Museum of modern-day Art in Los Angeles, is itself going come travel, very first around Europe and finally come Los Angeles, most likely in 2001.

Still, even if it is or no it is art, the exhibition is a considerable retrospective, using photographs, drawings and models. And also the reality that that is not arranged chronologically underlines the consistency of Mr. Meier's classically modernist vision the architecture. Born in brand-new Jersey and educated at Cornell University, he discovered his early on influences (apart indigenous Bernini, Boromini and Bramante) in Le Corbusier, candid Lloyd Wright, luigi Khan, Alvar Aalto and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and also he has actually never turned away from them. For him, postmodernism to be no temptation: he dismissed it as ''meaningless pastiche.''

Nonetheless, beginning with the blacksmith House built in Darien, Conn., in the so late 1960's, Mr. Meier's work-related has had actually a unique signature. He to be soon known as ''the white architect'' because that the whiteness of many of his buildings, and, when years later on he was favored as the architect that the Getty center on condition that it need to not be white, white continues to be his desired color.

''Whiteness is for me the clearest means of to express the difference in between what is natural and also what is man-made,'' he describes in one audio-tape comment that tourists to the Jeu de Paume can lug while see the show, ''and in ~ the same time the reflects and also refracts all the colour of nature i beg your pardon are an altering around you with the day and through the seasons. Whiteness delineates most clearly the planer surfaces and also linear surfaces, the difference in between opacity and also transparency.''

But whiteness, that notes, is likewise an instrument through which to attain his principal goals of light and space. In his memoir, ''Building the Getty,'' the wrote, ''I have constantly been preoccupied with the filtration and reflection of natural light, v chiaroscuro effects and also with the means in i m sorry a structure becomes animated with the motion of the topic in space.''

THIS preoccupation is amply shown by the models in the exhibition, not just in his beforehand houses however notably in his museums, beginning with the Museum of decorate Arts in Frankfurt, Germany, where his main difficulty was to develop a huge modern extension to a tiny 18th-century museum. The price he found was transparency, which enabled the new to enhance the old. With the High Museum in Atlanta, built virtually simultaneously in the beforehand 1980's, he payment tribute come Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum by building a ramp around an atrium splashed with natural light.

''There have the right to never be sufficient light,'' he likes come say.

In numerous cases, Mr. Meier has likewise used light to assist his summary modernist forms fit into neighborhoods with strong, created personalities. Thus, with the Museum of modern Art in Barcelona, Spain, a substantial glass facade enables the white rectangular structure not to clash through the 16th-century convent it looks onto. In Ulm, Germany, whereby Mr. Meier was commissioned to construct an Exhibition and Assembly structure beside the city's Gothic cathedral, he designed large windows and skylights so that the cathedral's tall spire is ever before visible from within the building.

One the his present projects has involved relating to an entirely various urban environment. Three years ago, Mr. Meier was liked to develop the Church of the Year 2000 for the Vatican. Quite than enabling him to pertained to terms v the Roman style that he therefore admires, however, the church -- his an initial church -- is being built in the working-class district of Tor Tre Teste top top a little plot surrounding by characterless 17-story apartment blocs, as a symbol, that said, ''of the Vatican's coming to the people.''

''It seemed to me that this church had actually to produce a sense of enclosure, a spirituality place,'' the explained, ''but at the very same time it had to be part of the neighborhood. And also so the style is not just internalized but additionally looks up and out. The roof is glass and also the skies is approximately you. That is a location of inward meditation, but likewise outward thought.''

The structures of the $8 million church have actually only just been laid, v plans because that completion prior to the finish of 2000, however a model reveals a striking design. Top top one side of the church space three precast concrete shells, in between which organic light will pour into the atrium listed below during the day and also artificial light will certainly be actors upward toward the apartment blocks at night.

Still, the central exhibit in the Jeu de Paume is for sure the 28-foot-long model of the $1 exchange rate Getty Center, quickly the biggest of the 250 or so models developed by Mr. Meier's own version shop throughout the 14 years of construction of the facility (a dozen models that details are additionally in the show). Constructed of wood and also still the shade of wood (whiteness never ever ceased to it is in an problem in Mr. Meier's discussions with the Getty management), it offers a panoramic check out that only a helicopter can provide, showing the partnership of the complicated to the hillside and also offering an understanding into the selection of structures that compose the center. But the design is also detailed sufficient to show the five-foot-wide peripheral gardens the were forced to discourage tourists from peering into dwellings in surrounding Brentwood.

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Whether the Getty facility can be considered a substantial art surroundings is, of course, a moot point. However Mr. Meier, who painted in an summary Expressionist layout in the so late 1950's till he felt the he had to choose in between painting and also architecture, can nonetheless now insurance claim to have exhibited in the Jeu de Paume as a traditional artist. In a separate an are in the museum, the is presenting a an option of his collages, which, that said, ''have very small to carry out with architecture.'' lock are, however, a product the his unlimited travels as an architect.

''When ns fly, I bring a crate of material with me, and this is the result,'' he stated proudly. ''They are an individual notes that a intuitive nature.''