last year, ‘smith house’ — the famous residence designed by richard meier — celebrated its 50th anniversary. the dwelling, which initially propelled meier’s career, has continued to define his firm’s architectural language over the past half-century. built amid the rocks and trees of a one-and-a-half-acre site, the property overlooks long island sound from the connecticut coast. to commemorate 50 years of the home’s existence, architectural photographer mike schwartz has documented the house with a new set of images.

richard meier smith house
all images by mike schwartz



richard meier designed the weekend residence for carole and fred smith shortly after leaving the office of marcel breuer. ‘they showed me a set of drawings for an unbuilt ranch-style house that had been designed for the previous landowner,’ explains meier. ‘it was immediately clear to me that a one-story house with a spread-out plan was the most expensive type to build on this site because blasting the rock for the foundations would be a massive undertaking. it was obvious that a smaller footprint that extended vertically instead of horizontally would be both more cost-effective and more interesting spatially, given the rocky, coastal landscape.’

richard meier smith house
the glazed wall is suspended between the chimney and the steel structural columns



internally, the home is clearly divided into public and private areas. ‘the private side of the house is at the entrance facing land, woods, and road,’ describe the architects. ‘a series of closed, cellular spaces, these private areas are organized through three levels behind an opaque facade, which is intermittently pierced with windows. the public spaces, where the family meets and entertains, are to the rear of the house, overlooking the water. this public sector consists of three levels nestled within a three-sided glass enclosure; from the outside, the ground and upper levels appear as solid slabs held fast in the white mullions of the glass shell.’

richard meier smith house
a painted brick fireplace pushes to the outside through the tight frame of mullions



‘I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since I first experienced the smith house,’ comments chuck smith, the son of carole and fred. ‘I was only five years old then, but the childlike wonder I felt then come back to me every time I walk up the ramp, inside the door, and feel richard meier’s design. the view is always amazing but it’s the architecture that turns it into art. maybe I’m biased, but I think it’s a near perfect work of art and my goal is to preserve it forever and hopefully share it with all someday.’

richard meier smith house
the glazed wall creates a subtle tension that draws the occupant across the living space to the outside



‘houses occupy a unique place in architecture,’ says richard meier. ‘they are the most fundamental type of shelter we design. and both professionals and the public are continually fascinated by new concepts for the home. houses, unlike other building forms, truly take on a life of their own. they exert a powerful influence over architecture that is culturally response and, historically, has been its main instrument for change.’

richard meier smith house
the balustrades of the lower and upper levels are set back from the glass

richard meier smith house
the property overlooks long island sound from the connecticut coast

richard meier smith house
large windows fill the living spaces with natural light

richard meier smith house
the rear of the all-white dwelling

richard meier smith house
the home is built amid the rocks and trees of a one-and-a-half-acre site

richard meier smith house
the three-story residence illuminated at night



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