Through the lens: photographer Mike Schwartz celebrates Richard Meier’s Smith House
The Smith House was one of Richard Meier’s most seminal commissions, propelling the famous American architect’s career when it was built in 1967; it is considered as one of the great architectural masterpieces of the 20th century to this day. 2017 was the 50th anniversary of the house’s completion and to mark the occasion the Smith family and architectural photographer Mike Schwartz have just released a new set of photographs of the iconic home.
The house, which we visited in Wallpaper* March 2016, employs all the architectural hallmarks of Meier’s work, helping him to build his distinct architectural language of large, open-plan spaces, bright white volumes, large openings, grids and natural light.
‘I was working out of one room of a two-room apartment shortly after leaving the office of Marcel Breuer. One day I had a call from Carole Smith asking if I would be interested in designing a weekend house for her in Darien, Connecticut. She was looking for a young architect who would give full attention to her house’, recalls Meier, who upon visiting the site discovered that due to the landscape’s rocky nature the solution was building upwards, instead of spreading out in the horizontal. ‘This was the beginning of the design process’, he says.
Schwartz’s camera records the house’s magnificence, the way it sits on the Connecticut coast and how it relates to the striking nature around it. Inside, there is a clear separation between public and private spaces, with the former being outward-facing and open, and the latter composed of cellular, protected areas behind an opaque façade, pierced with windows.
‘I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since I first experienced the Smith House’, says owner Chuck Smith. ‘I was only five years old then, but the childlike wonder I felt then comes back to me every time I walk up the ramp, inside the door, and feel Richard Meier’s design.’