By Susan Kime – Designer Richard Meier’s newest project, Meier-on-Rothschild, is a 37 story, 590 foot high,white, transparent tower, located at 36 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Known as “The White City,” Tel Aviv could easily be considered an open-air, urban architectural museum, exhibiting over 4,000 examples of 1930s Bauhaus-style architecture.
The white, angular building overlooks Neve Zedek, one of Tel Aviv’s most fashionable and historic districts; and Rothschild Boulevard and the Bauhaus district; as well as the Judean mountains and the Clore beach and Mediterranean Sea. Though Meier-on-Rothschild is slated for completion in the first quarter of 2014, it is already 60 percent sold to the international business, culture and art communities. The penthouse is priced at $50 million, and is aptly called The Palace In The Sky. We recently interviewed Mr. Meier, asking him about his vision for this project, and how it relates to the city of Tel Aviv, its present and future.
ET: When did you begin contemplating the design of Meier-on-Rothschild?
Richard Meier: The idea came immediately; it took a number of months for it to evolve into what it looks like now.
ET: How does your design philosophy, which combines modern/ minimal with an overarching transparent elegance, adapt itself to this particular low-desert-but close-to-ocean environment?
Richard Meier: Tel Aviv has a desert climate, even thought it is close to the ocean, and can be very hot–The exterior of the building is based on a louvered idea. The louvers shade the balconies and shields against the intense sunlight. The design and technology has been based upon innovative systems to facilitate environmentally friendly living. Some of our features include an Israeli technology named Chascha-maim, or smart-saved water, to reduce water consumption by 30 percent; pneumatic waste collection to maximize recycling; and windows and glazing to optimise natural, rather than artificial, light within the building.
ET: I am aware that many of your other properties have a sustainability DNA to them. How do you see this eco-sensibility growing in the Middle East?
Richard Meier: I see sustainability and eco-sensitivity as an important component in the architecture and mindsets of this area. We see a similar sensitivity in Europe, in the US, and now in China where we have some projects. I think there is a growing concern now, and it is has become a needful concern no matter where we are in the world.
ET: You have been in the architectural design and implementation field for many years, and have won many awards, including the Pritzker Prize. You have designed the Getty Center on Los Angeles, The Jubilee Church in Rome, Italy; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; Perry and Charles Street Condominiums in New York; the Canal+ Television Headquarters in Paris, France; and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, Spain – and those are just a very few! Do you consider Meier-on-Rothschild your most significant achievement to date? And if so, why?
Richard Meier: It is not my most significant work to date, it is one of them. However, it is significant in that it is my first in the Middle East. I am also happy that it is in Tel Aviv, a city I know very well, and one that combines classic Levantine, European, Ottoman and Bauhaus architecture.
ET: Meier-on-Rothschild is placed in an historically relevant area of the city, close to many Bauhaus designed structures. What does this particular placement symbolize to you in terms of the evolution of Tel Aviv and its future?
Richard Meier: For me, it symbolizes the forward, positive attitude of the Israelis. With all of their past turmoil, they look ahead. Tel Aviv is a thriving city, it is also a city where many important architectural landmarks abide. I think Meier-on-Rothschild symbolizes an ongoing optimism, as regards Tel Aviv’s future in particular and Israel’s in general.
ET: For the Meier-on-Rothschild project, you did the interior design for not only for the apartments, but for the Sunshine Residences, also a part of Meier-on-Rothschild. Does this component of your design experience allow for a greater organicity to your projects?
Richard Meier: It does provide the organicity — I also do not do any architectural design now without doing the interiors as well. This organicity defines the overall complementarity of the building, as the interior design must flow as part of this whole. And with this project, for the first time, we collaborated with Louise and Paul Sunshine, whose Sunshine Residences are an integral part of Meier-on-Rothschild project. These are turnkey fully furnished residences featuring our limited-edition signed and numbered furniture, select vintage antique pieces, contemporary designs from B&B Italia, Bulthaup kitchens, Frette linens. The best of the best.
ET: According to information I received, 60 percent of the residences in Meier-on-Rothschild are sold out already, yet it won’t be completed until early in 2014. Do you have any thoughts on this exceptional sales volume? And do you see the desirability of the residence component of mixed use a growing trend?
Richard Meier: It is a gratifying surprise, given the state of the global economy. I do see our residence component growing in popularity with our international luxury population. But I think also if you want to have a great luxury residence in Tel Aviv, Meier-on-Rothschild is the only place to be.