Richard Meier Architectural Models Find New Home in Jersey City

By Madeline Orton
Arts Correspondent

Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Richard Meier has no shortage of models from his 50-plus years in the field. Now the acclaimed designer of The Getty Center and New Jersey native brings his process to the public, with the opening of The Richard Meier Model Museum.

“We make models for all of our projects,” explains Meier, “and here you see study models on the shelves [and] you see parts of models.”

Meier hopes the museum will serve as a resource and sees working with models as an ideal first step for aspiring architects.

“We have a small model shop in our office, and people come and, before they can work on a project, they work in the model shop for three months,” he says. “The models were a very important way of people understanding the relationships between the various buildings and the gardens and the landscape.”

In addition to architectural models, the space also holds sculptures created by Meier from discarded model pieces, a studio for the architect and a library for the general public.

The Richard Meier Model Museum is the latest addition to Mana Contemporary — an 800,000-square-foot and expanding arts complex in Jersey City.

“I actually started with storage and [as] a service provider for the arts world,” says Eugene Lemay, founder and president of Mana Contemporary. “There’re thousands of collectors. Let me store their work, but I will also create shows from their collection.”

From its original purpose, Mana Contemporary grew to include artist studios, a dance studio, a café and now the permanent museum of Meier’s models — an honor for Lemay.

“I brought in many forms of art. Architecture, I didn’t bring in yet. And Richard Meier was the classic,” says Lemay. “It was a dream of mine.”

Still, the set-up had its challenges. “Right here is the Getty model,” Lemay points out. “It’s a very big piece, and we had to bring it through the window here, and we had one inch… I don’t know why we got it through, but we got it through!”

The finished product, though, is a career highlight for Meier. “I feel very good about it,” Meier says. “It’s a resource and it’s something for people to enjoy and learn from, and it’s going to be here a lot longer than I am.”

For the Meiers, design is a family affair. Daughter Ana Meier’s Furniture Showroom opens in Mana Contemporary next to the Model Museum in March.