On April 19th, architect Richard Meier, known for buildings such as The Athaneum, the Douglas House and thd Getty Center was honored with the 2012 Ellis Island Family Heritage Awards by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation at Ellis Island in New Jersey. Meier was one of two recipients, the other former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, whose grandparents emigrated through Ellis Island. Angela Lansbury was honored as well, having immigrated to America herself at the age of fourteen.
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In his acceptance speech, Meier discusses the cultural wealth of New York City and the opportunities presented to him when his grandparents “began living the American dream” by making their way through Ellis Island. He continues on to discusses the inspiration behind his work and his own drive.
For many who visit New York City and Jersey City, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are symbols of freedom and liberty. They are associated, to this day, with the opportunities they promised decades ago. When architecture can still do that, it is worth preserving. In the 1980s the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation renovated the existing building to allow visitors to experience the spaces through which so many people were give the chance to begin new lives. The next step in the renovation will be to convert the space into a museum, which will be in two phases. Last fall the first part of the project was opened and it was called Journeys: The Peopling of America 1550-1890. The next phase of the construction, which will open next year, will include stories from people that immigrated through Ellis Island until 1950. This will include regulations and discrimination that occurred during the time.