At Richard Meier's East Hampton, New York, farmhouse, 14 guests are about to arrive for a Sunday luncheon. but the renowned architect is headed for a dip in the nearby Atlantic Ocean, despite the morning chill. "I try to swim every day when I'm out here," Meier says simply.
In his relaxed attitude toward entertaining, he may be taking a cue from his latest project: the Church of the Year 2000, just outside Rome, which is a bit behind schedule. "The sense of urgency isn't the same in Italy," Meier reflects--not that he minds. The church, which celebrates this Jubilee Year (the beginning of the third millennium) by bringing a place of worship to a previously underserved area, is now scheduled to be finished next year. Meier won the commission from the Vicariato of Rome after a highly publicized competition, and he got to present his design to the Pope himself. It was another coup for the 65-year-old Meier, who in 1984 became the youngest person ever to win the Pritzker Prize, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in the world of architecture. Today he's best known for the Getty Center, which opened in Los Angeles in 1997.
Ever since starting his own firm in 1963, Meier has dazzled his admirers with his cerebral modernist designs. The Church of the Year 2000 is signature Meier, with its dramatic profile consisting of three curved shells in the architect's trademark white, which, he says, remind him of sails. Glass panels on the ceiling and along the shells will allow the strong Italian sun to illuminate the interior. "I told the Pope that the church was about looking up and having light come in," Meier says. "When you're inside, the main window is the roof. He appreciated that."