Pritzker Prize-winning architect Richard Meier is a brand. The 83-year old modernist has several celebrated buildings on his résumé, including the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the Jubilee Church in Rome, and the Hague City Hall in the Netherlands. Like fellow starchitects Frank Gehry and the late Zaha Hadid, any project with Meier’s name instantly receives a boost in public interest.
Until two weeks ago. Everything changed when The New York Times published a damning report about five women accusing Meier of sexual harassment. The same day the Times story broke (March 13), Meier took a six-month leave of absence from his firm, saying he was “deeply troubled and embarrassed” by the accounts.
Two former employees accuse Meier of flashing them, another attests that he reached under her dress at an office party, and Meier’s former assistant says he asked her to undress at his apartment. Meier’s fifth accuser says he forced her to his bed.
Condemnation from the architecture community came swiftly. The New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects rescinded an award. The Royal Institute of British Architects, which has bestowed two medals on Meier, issued a statement condemning his behavior. Now, a new Meier-designed luxury condo in New York City has thoroughly wiped his name from all sales materials, Curbed reports.
The web page describing 685 First Avenue’s striking glass architecture has the usual grandiose poetry of a sales site for a luxury building, except without mention of its architect. The only mention of the beleaguered architect is buried in the press clippings on the website. Neighborhood blog Tudor City Confidential also has before-and-after pictures showing how the name of Meier’s firm has been scratched out of the sales office’s door.
It appears that Richard Meier has become the Lord Voldemort of New York real estate. His name shalt not be spoken.
Citi Habitats, 685 First Avenue’s sales agent, didn’t return Quartz’s emails inquiring if the shift in sales strategy was related to the Times report. Meier’s firm also declined to comment for this article. Before the scandal, the 42-story glass tower, two blocks south of the United Nations building, was billed as Meier’s masterpiece in black—a dramatic departure from his signature white buildings. (The construction site was even cloaked in black fabric as the tower went up.)
Jonathan Miller, founder of the real estate consultancy Miller Samuel, says erasing Meier’s name is a smart move. “When you’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the development, you’re not going to want to take too many chances with how the market will react,” he says. “I think it’s impressive that the marketing agents were able to remove the branding on that building so quickly.”
Miller credits Meier for bringing starchitecture to New York residential real estate with the debut of 173 and 176 Perry Street, a twin-towered residential complex in Greenwich Village. He says the prestige of having a starchitect’s name attached to a building can factor into initial buyer decisions, but it’s not enough to make or break a development in the long run.