Everyone’s a critic, so they say.
It’s an aphorism that holds true in Maplewood where both architect David Minno and local-lad-cum-world-famous-architect Richard Meier came in for some barbs at the recent Maplewood Village Alliance board meeting.
The board was meeting to vote on a recommendation by its Post Office Design Review Subcommittee on the proposed design of the proposed Post House development (the board approved the recommendation — with conditions).
Minno not only got an earful from opponents of his current design for the Post House — which evoked comparisons to a CVS and Walgreens from one commenter and was called a “slippery slope to mediocrity” by another — but he also got some knocks for his design at the Station House, a 50-unit multifamily dwelling which was completed a couple of years ago on the other side of the NJ Transit tracks.
Meanwhile, MVA member Paul Sotrop criticized opponents of the Minno-designed Post House project who were hoping that “Star-chitect” Meier “could come in wearing his big white hat and build his big white box with grids on it…. That didn’t happen and frankly I’m glad it’s not happening because that would not be appropriate for our Village.”
Dave Helmkamp of Engage Maplewood challenged Sotrop’s criticism of Meier, saying that the architect could clearly “do more than a white box.”
Meier’s name became entangled with the project when he and fellow Columbia High School alum and architect Peter Eisenman made comments questioning the scale of the development and posited the idea of adaptive reuse at a session at the Maplewood Ideas Festival in March.
After a local resident reached out to Meier, he volunteered to consult on the project — offering one hour of his time to meet with site developer Joe Forgione, Minno and town officials. Meier met with the group on April 22.
After the meeting, Mayor Vic DeLuca told VillageGreenNJ.com, “There was a good exchange of information and ideas among Mr. Meier and Mr. Forgione. Mr. Meier told me prior to the meeting that he was glad to hear that the developer and his architect were working cooperatively with a team of local architects on the Design Review Committee. He felt having that type of community input was important. He restated that today.”
DeLuca added, “We agreed that any future comments by Mr. Meier about the proposed project will come from him.”
Last night, Helmkamp wondered why Meier’s take on the meeting was a “secret.”
Later in the meeting, Minno did characterize Meier’s feedback at the meeting, saying that Meier “wanted to comment not on the style” but “on if the building fit in.” Minno said that “in the end, he [Meier] is very comfortable with how this building fits into the Village.”
Opponents of the project found this hard to swallow. One commenter, Alexandra Birnbaum, said that she did not believe that Meier could “be okay with this scale,” given his comments at the Maplewood Ideas Festival.
When VillageGreenNJ.com reached out to Meier for comment regarding the April 22 meeting, his director of communication responded via email, “We appreciate your interest in the work of Richard Meier & Partners. Unfortunately Mr. Meier is not available to comment or contribute to the article.” A follow up email asking if Meier would be available to comment in the future elicited this reply: “Unfortunately Mr. Meier won’t be available to comment.”