Richard Meier is an American architect known the world over for the unmistakable style he confers on his buildings. The author of important and famous projects such as the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and the winner of the Pritzker Prize, the industry’s most important and prestigious, he has been popular since the beginning of his career on account of the iconic and spectacular private residences he has designed. These include Douglas House, one of Meier’s masterpieces which has left its mark on twentieth-century architecture.
Located in Harbor Springs in Michigan, the property was commissioned by James and Jean Douglas and built between 1971 and 1973. One of the main features of the dwelling, apart from its modernist style, is the suggestive and dramatic position above the shores of Lake Michigan, hidden away in thick forest.
The uniqueness of Douglas House is already evident at its entrance, which is unusually at roof level. A footbridge overhanging the void reaches it from the road. Once inside, a breathtaking sight awaits. Concrete walls give way to huge windows on each side (apart from at the back). One is presented with the luxurious vegetation of the surrounding forest on one side, and the enchanting and boundless horizon of Lake Michigan on the other.
The rooms inside have furniture designed by Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Richard Meier himself. The predominant colour is the spotless white of the walls, something almost always present in Meier’s works.
The building is on four floors linked by indoor staircases at the side of the house. The main staircase, however, is on the outside. Owing to its extending towards the lake, part of it is immersed in the forest around.
A number of owners followed the Douglases, and during their tenure the building underwent a number of precise interventions aiming to preserve its original state.
In 2007, the American Institute of Architects listed the Douglas House as one of the top 150 structures on its ‘America’s Favorite Architecture’ list, while in 2016 the dwelling was added to the ‘National Register of Historic Places’ by the National Park Service United States Department of the Interior, becoming part of a select list of cultural resources deemed worthy of preservation.
Harbor Springs, March 2019