Is Richard Meier’s Retirement Enough to Save His Firm?

Three years after sexual harassment allegations surfaced against Richard Meier, the Pritzker Prize–winning architect has retired from his namesake firm, which has undergone a leadership restructuring and will now be called Meier Partners.

The Smith House in Darien, CT. Photography by Mike Schwartz

In March 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement, the New York Times published an article detailing allegations from five women of sexual harassment against Richard Meier. The Pritzker Prize laureate, 86, admitted to being “deeply troubled and embarrassed” by the accounts and took an extended leave from his namesake firm, which he founded in 1963. The fallout reverberated with devastating swiftness—clients immediately distanced themselves from the firm, Sotheby’s canceled a solo exhibition of his work, and his alma mater Cornell University declined an endowment to name its department chair after him. The firm never quite recovered from the fallout, acquiring virtually no new stateside work in the three years since the allegations surfaced. 

Now, the office formerly known as Richard Meier & Partners has announced a total rebrand and Meier’s formal departure. Newly reinvigorated as Meier Partners, the office has undergone a leadership restructuring that elevates 30-year employee Dukho Yeon to lead designer and George H. Miller, former managing partner at Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, as chief operating officer. According to a news release, Yeon and Miller “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.” 

Michael Palladino and Jim Crawford, who ran the firm’s California branch for 25 years, plans to spin his office into an independent firm called STUDIOpractice. Meier’s family will continue to hold its longstanding stake, and his daughter, Ana, will remain an advisor to the firm. Meier, meanwhile, who is focusing on painting from his Long Island home, will continue consulting for clients—but only those who specifically ask for him.  

The Getty Center in Los Angeles. Photography by Scott Frances/Esto

“The future we envision at Meier Partners will build on our proven record of exceptional architecture to create work that’s both relevant to our time and meaningful to society,” Yeon said in a statement. “We’re 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’m confident will evolve our legacy and redefine the firm and the industry as we move forward.”

The rebranding aims to reintroduce the practice on the foundations of the masterful, finely detailed architecture that originally elevated Meier to an early crop of “starchitects” and saw him complete more than 130 buildings—including the Smith House, Atlanta’s High Museum of Art, and the Getty Center in Los Angeles—across four continents. The success of this rebrand remains to be seen, but the firm has already reported an early abundance of new projects in Europe and Asia, and inquiries have recently started coming in from potential American clients. While it’s tough to imagine the once-dominant Meier Partners not landing virtually any projects on its home turf for three years, perhaps this rebrand is exactly what the firm needs to usher in a successful next chapter.

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