Arete for Richard Meier's Timeless Tower
The Timeless Tower, formally known as the CDC Xin-Yi Residential Tower, was designed by Meier & Partners to, as they put it, "set a new precedent in Taiwan as a private building that dedicates its entire landscape to the public realm." The tower constitutes a major addition to the Taipei skyline and its downtown, an area at the fore of Taiwan's burgeoning economic growth. "It’s still a very fresh, raw city," Richard noted after his travels.
"For the site to be public is very unique and makes this project extremely rich," said Meier & Partners' Stefan L. Scheiber-Loeis.
As such, Arete is remarkable not only for its carefully deliberated aesthetic and monumental proportions, but for its selection as a highly visible and communally appreciated work of public art in a developing cityscape.
"I believe as an architect that a building, including its art, has to be very specific to its site," Sheiber-Loeis said. In Richard's exuberant Arete, he explained, Meier & Partners found "a counterpart to our very geometrical, strongly defined building with its hard lines, squares, and rectangles."
Like so many of Richard's sculptures, Arete has its origins in the marble quarries of Carrara: over the course of nearly two years, what began as a rough-edged, 40-ton block of stone was transformed to align with Richard's vision of a complex, multi-faceted stonework in harmonious dialogue with a specific urban landscape. Next door to Timeless Tower is the landmark skyscraper Taipei 101, which at 101 stories and 1,671 feet tall, held the title of the world's tallest building from 2004 until 2010. From Arete's early beginnings as a tabletop plaster model, Richard intended a form that would interact with earth, sky, and water, while gracefully encompassing two entangled themes: the human drive for growth — reaching towards the heavens, as do both Timeless Tower and Taipei 101 — and the power of humility and remaining firmly connected to the ground, figuratively and literally.
"We always felt that the building and the site needed to be grounded," said Scheiber-Loeis, "stone is the natural material to be grounded, to keep two feet on the ground."
Once the sculpture's general lines were determined in miniature, Richard and the studio team at Carrara's SGF Scultura worked closely to select and extract a massive block of grey Bardiglio marble from the ancient quarries. Richard chose to work with this particular stone for the interplay it would provide with Timeless Tower's bleached white facade — unlike white Carrara marble, for example, the deep, textured greyness of the Bardiglio would not be lost when set against the skyscraper. The stone's rich white veins, however, provide a more subtle complement to the tower, and lend the overall work an additional meditative dimension.
Arete is the centerpiece of the public plaza that surrounds the tower. Among lush trees, residents and passersby alike can contemplate the work's multitude of faces and characters: "They’re all very open and fluid," Richard says, "everybody sees something different." Not wanting for anything, the plaza also features a "Pebble" bench by British artist Ben Barrell, who Richard had the privilege of meeting during his trip. Barrell's bench will provide viewers the perfect respite from which to enjoy Arete's many pleasures.