The Lambert House
Lonelyville, New York, 1962
A 28-year-old Richard Meier received his first and by far most modest commission from the artist Saul Lambert back in 1962. “Lambert had purchased a very small site on the ocean, on Fire Island,” says Meier, “and said, ‘We don’t have very much money—actually, we have $9,000 to spend on the construction of this house. Could you design something for us?’ ” Meier enlisted a company that specialized in log cabins to create a precut contemporary structure. “They cut all the lumber in Michigan and shipped it,” he says, “and we slept on the beach and built the house in nine days.” The building’s clean, simple lines (forever altered by the home’s subsequent owners, Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft, who added a second story, among other design sins) do bear some relationship to the clean geometry of Meier’s most well-known structures.
The Peak Leisure Club
Hong Kong, 1962 (Unbuilt)
Back in the eighties, Zaha Hadid’s work rarely left the paper phase of construction. “In the seventies and early eighties, so many architects had no work because of the economy,” says Hadid. “But we were very productive with drawings.” In these renderings for the unrealized Peak Leisure Club, which Hadid created when she was 32, one can see hints of the bold, energetic forms that persist in her work today. “We did one competition after the other,” says Hadid, “and we didn’t win any. But they were all great designs, very tough and soft at the same time, elegant and resolved in terms of planning. All these unrealized projects were necessary to develop our repertoire.” The Peak Leisure Club was conceived for a mountaintop site, and its unexpected angles and lines interacted with the site so the building seemed to rise directly out of nature.
Ben Van Berkel
Amersfoort, The Netherlands, 1990–1992
The architect Ben Van Berkel—with Caroline Bos, one of the founding partners of the Amsterdam-based UNStudio—explains that his first project, at 33, was the Karbouw, an office complex for a building company in The Netherlands. “At that time, my office was an extension of my living room,” says Van Berkel, who now heads up a firm that is 125 strong. Though modest in scale, the Karbouw represents some very big thinking: The upper floor is a corridor that leads directly to a single green window, while from the exterior, that window acts as a sort of eye. “I’m still proud of what we did there,” he says. “This was a small office building, but the ambition was not to make it so clear that it was an office building. It looks like it could be anything. It could be a small cultural center or an electricity station. Surreality isn’t allowed in architecture, but I always sneak it in.”