Richard Meier Remembers the Late Massimo Vignelli: “He Made Me Look Twice”

Massimo Vignelli, January 10, 1931 – May 27, 2014

The world of design, across nearly every discipline, experienced a great loss on Tuesday when Italian-born, New York-based icon Massimo Vignelli passed away at the age of 83. On May 9, son Luca had announced that his father was terminally ill, and invited fans to send letters of support and well wishing. Vignelli received thousands, according to fellow modernist and longtime friend Richard Meier.

Meier, who moved his office to 10th Avenue at Vignelli’s suggestion and refused to publish a book unless his upstairs neighbor would design it, spoke to ARTINFO over the phone about one of his best friends. His full, uninterrupted reflections are below.

“I remember it clearly. I had an office on 57th Street and Lexington Avenue, and our lease was coming to a close. I was with Massimo, and I guess we were having dinner. He said ‘You gotta move to 10th Avenue! The space is great, the light is great, and the rent is better than most other parts of New York City.’ Massimo was on the top floor, and we were on the sixth floor. His office, which he designed, was fabulous. Everyone had a huge amount of space.

“What was great was that we were both in the building at the same time, so we could do lots of book projects together. I never did a book without having Massimo design it. When we were working on layouts for the book, I’d say no, Massimo, this project deserves 8 or 10 pages. And he’d say no, this project is not as good as this other project. He made me look twice at work that we had done and think about which ones were, in a sense, more interesting. Our criteria actually wasn’t that different. The reason we enjoyed working together so much is that we sort of had a similar vision of what architecture should be in the 21st century. It had to do with a certain modernity, attitude, light, and space, and how it relates to nature. But Massimo had an incredible eye for all things. I think he was an extraordinary architecture critic in the way he was able to design books with a knowledge of architecture, not just of graphics.

A joint 2012 interview with Meier and Vignelli for Nowness

“I don’t remember how we met. I should really search my memory, but it was fun at the time. I miss the friendship. I miss the closeness, whether we were working together or here in the building together or going out to dinner together. Massimo just had an uplifting personality that affected you. He was always smiling and upbeat. I saw him a week ago [Tuesday], and he was sitting at his desk going through some of the thousands of letters and notes that people have sent to him wishing him well. He just had this incredible spirit about him, this attitude that everything was going to be all right. He was amazing.”

— Janelle Zara (@janellezara)