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Dr. Jonathan Mann Discusses the State of the AIDS Epidemic for World AIDS Day.

Dr. Jonathan Mann talks about the state of AIDS across the globe, as well as the speculations about an AIDS vaccine. (Today is World Aids Day.) Mann was the founding director of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS, and has just been named Dean of the School of Public Health at the Allegheny University of Health Sciences in Philadelphia. He also co-edited "AIDS in the World."


Other segments from the episode on December 1, 1997

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 1, 1997: Interview with Jonathan Mann; Interview with Richard Meier; Review of Bryn Terfel's album "Handel Arias."


Date: DECEMBER 01, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 120101np.217
Head: Jonathan Mann
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Today is World AIDS Day -- a day for discussion, planning for the future, and remembering those whose lives were taken by the disease.

My guest, Dr. Jonathan Mann was one of the organizers of the first World AIDS Day in 1988. Dr. Mann is an epidemiologist. From 1986 to 1990, he was the founding director of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS. He's also a senior editor of the book "AIDS and the World." He's been a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health for seven years.

We asked Dr. Mann to talk with us about the current state of the AIDS epidemic and the latest developments in treating it. Let's start with the latest statistics on the epidemic's spread released by the UN in its World AIDS Day report.

DR. JONATHAN MANN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, AUTHOR, ORGANIZER OF WORLD AIDS DAY, FOUNDING DIRECTOR, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION'S GLOBAL AIDS PROGRAM, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, the UN AIDS program, which is the joint and cosponsored program that brings together six United Nations agencies together, has developed its latest figures, which basically show that the global epidemic in 1997 grew by about 14 percent.

There were about 5.8 million new HIV infections around the world, which translates to about 16,000 people a day who became newly infected with HIV during 1997. There in addition were an estimated 2.3 million deaths in 1997.

So, the global epidemic is expanding. It's intensifying, and actually one of the figures that I found most dramatic is that there are an estimated 30.6 million people living with HIV and AIDS in the world today, and that translates to one per 100 sexually-active people 15 to 49 years old in the world. In other worlds, one out of every 100 sexually active 15- to 49-year-olds in the world is infected today and is living with HIV.

GROSS: You say that the number of people with AIDS grew by 14 percent in 1997. How does that compare to last year -- what was the rate of growth?

MANN: Well, the epidemic has been continuing to grow. The 14 percent is the total number of HIV-infected people in the world. It's growing at different rates in different places.

For example, in the United States, there's actually, for the first time in 1996 and again in '97, some very good news, which is that in 1996, for the first time, the number of new AIDS cases declined compared to 1995 -- in other words, compared to the year before -- by 6 percent, and the number of AIDS deaths in 1996 went down about 25 percent compared to 1995.

So in some parts of the world, the United States being one, there has actually been a downturn in the number of new AIDS cases, and particularly deaths. In other parts of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, which is the most heavily affected part of the world, or in Southeast Asia, the epidemic is continuing to expand at a very rapid pace.

So, it's a very mixed picture throughout the world.

GROSS: Any other ways you interpret these new statistics?

MANN: Well, I think that the most important thing is that about 99 percent of the new infections with HIV are occurring in the developing world. And when we talk, as I hope we will, about the impact of treatment, which is really the reason why AIDS cases and AIDS deaths have declined in the United States -- when we talk about treatment and treatment availability, that fact of the vast majority of new infections occurring in the developing world, I think has to -- we'll have to keep that strongly in mind.

GROSS: How are the patterns of how HIV is spreading different in the have and the have-not countries?

MANN: There are very many differences between the, as you say, the have and the have-not countries -- between the industrialized world and the developing world. The basic modes of spread, of course, are still fundamentally -- are always fundamentally the same: sexual contact; contact with blood.

So in some industrialized countries, for example, like the United States, injecting drug use plays a very important role, as does sex between men who have sex with men. In other parts of the world, like sub-Saharan Africa, the epidemic, which is quite large, is being driven principally by heterosexual transmission. Another way of expressing that is that in sub-Saharan Africa, 50 percent of the infected people are women. Whereas in North America, in Latin America, only about 20 percent of the infected people are women.

So, there are differences in the dominant route of spread, but the fundamental routes are the same.

GROSS: What's your favorite hypothesis about why the percentage of people with AIDS who are women is so much higher in other countries than it is in the United States?

MANN: Well, I think it still comes back to the question of the dominant route of spread at a point in time. When AIDS first appeared in the United States, men who have sex with men accounted for the very large majority of all AIDS cases. The proportion of people acquiring AIDS heterosexually, which then of course will mean the proportion of women infected as well, has gradually been increasing.

So there's been a steady upward turn, and in fact despite those very, very impressive and positive statistics that I quoted for the United States in 1996 compared to '95, in that same period, the number of new AIDS cases among African-American heterosexual men and heterosexual women increased between 12 and 19 percent.

So everywhere what we see is that the route of spread will determine who will be infected. Those routes can evolve, as they have in the United States. So you could say in sum that the U.S. started as an epidemic that looks pretty much like an epidemic among gay men, and then evolved gradually into an epidemic that increasingly affects injecting drug users and heterosexual transmission.

And by the way, I should mention that wherever you see heterosexual transmission, as in sub-Saharan Africa, you're going to see a lot of infected children. So in 1997, of the 5.8 million new HIV infections, there were about 600,000 children or 1,600 children a day becoming infected with HIV, mostly from spread of infection from the mother -- infected mother -- to the fetus or the newborn child.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Dr. Jonathan Mann. Today is World AIDS Day. He's the founding director of the World Health Organization's global AIDS program and a professor of public health at Harvard University.

Are we seeing any new emergent strains of the HIV virus?

MANN: I don't think we're seeing particularly new emergent strains, but we're learning more about what exists. And there, we've been able to see that there are different sub-types of the AIDS virus in different parts of the world. So in, for example, Thailand, the sub-type that dominates among people who've acquired the infection sexually differs from the sub-type among those who have acquired the infection through injecting drug use.

Those may differ from the sub-type in Latin America or in Africa or in North America. But I think that the virus -- we can say that, you know, the virus doesn't show any clear signs of evolving in a large sense. But that, in a sense, that statement could in a sense conceal what happens at the more individual level.

The new drugs that have become available -- the so-called "combination therapy" that has produced such remarkable changes in the fate of HIV-infected people in the United States -- basically reducing the rate of developing AIDS among people who are HIV-infected and for people who have AIDS -- protecting them and in many cases leading to a dramatic clinical reversal; people who look very weak and very thin and are clearly extremely ill, who regain weight, regain a sense of well-being and return to essentially a normal life. It's a truly remarkable occurrence that these drugs are now available.

Now, when drugs like this become available, and particularly when they're widely used and particularly because these drugs require -- are so complicated in terms of their -- how many you take and when you take them, and whether you take them with food or between meals and so forth -- as well as the use of these drugs occasionally for what could be called "post-exposure" prophylaxis -- someone has what they think might be a high-risk sexual contact; they then take some of these drugs for a short period of time -- these are circumstances in which we can expect and anticipate resistance to the drugs to emerge.

So at the individual level, there can be escape; there can be strains of the virus that evolve in response to the presence of the anti-viral agents and that become resistant to the drugs that we have. This has not yet become a public health problem, but it is one we can anticipate.

GROSS: Do we have any new insights into what happens to the virus when a person with HIV is taking these new combination therapies?

MANN: What we've found is that in people whose plasma virus level drops to an undetectable level, which is a very small level -- in other words, with modern techniques we can detect very small number of viruses in the blood. People with undetectable levels of virus, because they are taking these -- this combination therapy, nevertheless in some cells in their bodies are harboring virus.

In other words, it's hard to get to that virus. It's been difficult to detect it, but now it's been shown to exist. And so, we can't really talk about cure at this point. We can only talk at this point about very, very remarkable suppression of the virus.

Hopefully, over the long term, after years of suppression, it might be possible that eradication of the virus from an individual could occur. But that will be a race in time between the development of resistant strains and the duration of effect of the drug. We just don't have all the answers yet, but we really can't speak in the -- in a strict sense -- of cure.

GROSS: So now, it's as if viruses are hiding out in cells when somebody takes the combination therapy, and if they stop taking those drugs, then the cells would come out of hiding and start reproducing again?

MANN: This is what is currently thought. As you can understand, because these drugs and their use is relatively recent, we don't have all the answers yet, but I think what we can liken it to is when new drugs are developed against bacteria, for example, where there's an immediate positive effect -- people can, indeed, and sometimes in the case of bacteria, be cured. People are very optimistic.

And then there's another phase that follows, which is a phase where we realize some of the limitations of the drug, some of the problems, what will some of the side-effects be with long-term use of the drug -- there's a lot to be learned. But there's still a very good piece of news in all of this. We just wish that this was good news that could be applicable at a global level, which is really in some ways why there is so much more attention now being given to vaccine.

GROSS: Vaccine -- let's get to the vaccine. Where are we?

MANN: Well, we're in a paradoxical place. This is a little bit hard to -- it's a little hard to understand why we have not had more progress towards vaccine development. I say that because there have been over 30 phase-one trials -- that is, trials of candidate vaccines to determine that they are safe. There are -- have only been three phase two trials and there is no trial yet underway which would demonstrate whether or not a vaccine candidate is effective.

I think the reason we haven't progressed further in all the time that's been -- and energy and money that's been spent towards vaccine, in a sense is that the vaccine development situation has been taken over by a pure scientific model.

By that I mean that the basic scientists, the research scientists who have done wonderful things are asking for all the answers to try to understand every little bit of how a vaccine candidate might work before they will give the green light to testing a vaccine in people.

However the history of vaccine development, from smallpox to measles to the new Lyme disease vaccine that will be coming out soon -- all demonstrate that at a certain point in time, even though scientists may disagree, it's important to take something that is safe; to try it in people; to learn from that; and then return to the basic science and back and forth until the best vaccine is available.

But people must remember that we still today don't understand how smallpox vaccine works in detail. If we waited for all that information, we'd still have smallpox instead of living in a world in which smallpox has been eradicated.

GROSS: A few people have offered to basically be human guinea pigs for the testing of an AIDS vaccine, and this has, of course, sparked a big ethical debate about whether that's appropriate or not. What are your thoughts on that?

MANN: Well, the vaccine that they are offering themselves to -- they're offering to be tested with is a live, attenuated vaccine, which is so far at this point from being a vaccine that we could imagine being safe and available -- and ultimately made available -- that I think their gesture whose courage -- which -- the courage of which I admire, because there's a long tradition of physicians putting themselves on the line for what they believe might work in terms of therapy and prevention.

So, I admire the gesture. I just wish that they chose a more appropriate product. That is to say that they -- I wish that they were pushing for the trials of vaccines that we already have information about in terms of safety. To be injected with an attenuated or a weakened strain of HIV raises very, very serious long-term questions of what would happen to that attenuated virus in a person.

So, I welcome the gesture -- I admire the gesture, but I really think that it distracts, unfortunately, from the principal problem we have, which is that we have candidate vaccines ready to test and yet we've not been able to move that next step forward. It is a failure of public health leadership which is costing us not only in financial terms, but obviously in human terms around the world, because only an AIDS vaccine will be able to bring this epidemic under control.

GROSS: My guest is epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Mann. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Today is World AIDS Day and my guest is Dr. Jonathan Mann. He was the founding director of the World Health Organization's Global AIDS Program. He is a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.

One of the concerns that you've been worried about for years is that in poor countries people can't afford whatever treatments are available for AIDS. There's another controversy now about what's happening in poor countries, and this pertains to -- that the testing of drugs there. Would you explain the controversy to us?

MANN: Yeah, when it was found that AZT could dramatically reduce the rate of spread of HIV from an infected pregnant woman to her newborn, the question arose whether a short course of the same drug would work in the developing world, because a short course would be much more affordable.

The controversy arose when the short course of drug was compared with a placebo; that is, was compared with giving nothing, when in fact there is a preventive strategy available, which is the full course AZT as used in the industrialized world.

This raised a number of very, very important issues about the relationship between industrialized and developing country researchers; their goals; the ethical questions involved; and so forth.

GROSS: So for instance, are we, the wealthier country, using the people in the poorer country as our guinea pigs?

MANN: Well, it wasn't so much in this case that we were using people as guinea pigs as that we were depriving them of a known effective treatment...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

MANN: Even though that known effective treatment was in no way available, and would not be available in that developing country. So, it becomes a question of standard of care. When you are doing a trial in a developing country, are you -- should you use the local standard of care, which would have been no treatment at all, or do you use the best available global standard of care, which would be the treatment as used in the United States?

So the implication was that perhaps researchers were behaving unethically and depriving women of a known effective treatment. And I think that the fundamental question really does get to the point of: for whose benefit is the research being done?

And also, to take a public health perspective, of the importance of learning this kind of information as rapidly as possible, because with 1,600 infants being infected each day in the -- principally in the developing world -- we need a simple, effective, usable way to prevent those children from being infected.

GROSS: I understand you were recently at an AIDS conference in Geneva in which you heard a lot of people who are from developing countries and who don't have access to the new drugs -- can't afford the new drugs. What did they have to say?

MANN: Actually, I think this is a terribly difficult problem for us all because when the -- when we first confronted AIDS in the early and mid-1980s, we really were all in this same boat together. North, south, east and west -- we didn't have any drugs. We didn't have any treatment. We didn't have a vaccine, obviously. What we had was common sense. What we had was good public health. What we had was exchange of information -- of ideas about how to prevent infection.

And then in the midst of this equality, this solidarity in front of the disease, drugs became available, but become available only to the rich. And then the poor see the rich getting the drugs and living, while they who are infected do not get the drugs and die. It is literally as stark as that.

Now, what this does is bring forward once again the fundamental inequity that has existed always and continues to exist in many other areas. It exists in areas where preventable and treatable diseases go unprevented and untreated in the developing world, simply for that fact of not having the money to buy the drug or pay for the drug.

The fact, however, that in AIDS this has emerged in front of our very eyes -- that it isn't an inherited inequity -- it's an inequity that we've actually seen develop right in front of us -- it's so difficult to be -- for developing -- for industrialized country people to be excited as they deserve to be about the new drugs, and then to see the faces of those who will never get those drugs; who will not have those drugs and who will die as a result.

My hope here is that that tension -- that ethical dilemma -- will push people not to deny it or look away from the problem, but to say to themselves: what can we do for the developing world? And I sincerely believe and feel that the answer to that lies in vaccine; lies in the need to emphasize -- to put the energy and the resources not into basic research on vaccine, but now into moving vaccines into the development phase so that they can become a reality.

This, I think, is the -- will be the expression of global solidarity from an industrialized world that has drugs that treat to a world which needs desperately to prevent the over 95 percent of infections that are occurring in the developing world.

GROSS: Dr. Jonathan Mann is a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health. We'll talk more in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Mann. Today is World AIDS Day. He was an organizer of the first World AIDS Day in 1988. From 1986 to 1990, he was the founding director of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS. Dr. Mann is a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health.

There was an interesting article in November in the New York Times, basically asking the question: is it time to challenge the idea that AIDS is a special illness? That people with AIDS are entitled to kind of special benefits, whether it's free hot lunches, free haircuts, art classes, legal advice, dinners delivered -- and these are all those special services that arose through a kind of informal AIDS network of people who were concerned about friends and loved ones and neighbors who had an illness, and the illness was such a frightening illness to people, they -- a lot of people treated people with AIDS as if they were lepers. Now we know more about AIDS, and so on, but this incredible network with these special support services has developed in the interim.

So, have you been following this debate?

MANN: Yeah, I have, and actually I think many of us for quite a long time have felt that AIDS is not special, but that we shouldn't respond to that idea by lowering standards of AIDS care back to the way it is for others, but rather use AIDS as an example of how -- how what people need can actually be provided and how important that can be.

I remember back in the late 1980s visiting San Francisco General Hospital, visiting the AIDS ward there, and being very impressed by all the amenities -- the comfortable chairs, the plants, the VCR, the television and so forth. And then going to the cancer ward, fairly nearby, and the cancer ward was sort of a regular cancer ward, like you'd imagine.

I think the response to that, again, is not to make the AIDS ward like the cancer ward, but make the cancer ward like the AIDS ward. And so I think that we really have learned a lot about the importance, for example, of dignity in the context of this epidemic.

We've learned how critical it is that people who have a disease, no matter what disease or condition, be accorded dignity. And people with AIDS have fought for and demanded that dignity. Well, that same issue of dignity applies as much to people with cancer or heart disease or other conditions.

So I think that it's a very healthy debate, and I think that the AIDS -- the period of time when we saw AIDS as a completely unique phenomenon really ended some time ago. We now recognize that in this country, for example, if we really want to deal seriously with AIDS, we're not only going to have to deal seriously with issues of health care for all Americans, but we're going to have to deal with the factors in our society that make people vulnerable to HIV in the first place, and that includes racism, as just one piece of that picture.

Similarly, around the world, we're seeing that the underlying root causes of vulnerability to AIDS are the same conditions which create vulnerability to the other major causes of premature disability, illness, and death in the world.

So I think we're at the verge of a reintegration, in a sense, of work against AIDS with broader work to improve health in this country and abroad.

GROSS: What else are you thinking about on this World AIDS Day?

MANN: Well, I am first of all thinking of the first World AIDS Day in 1988, and how on that day, how exciting it was that in every single country in the world, there was activity among non-governmental organizations, among private people around the issue of AIDS.

The slogan for the first World AIDS Day was "Tell The World What You're Doing About AIDS." And I'll always remember the feeling in WHO headquarters as, in a sense, the countries around the world lit up one after another, as we received reports of activities; that people were using that day -- that World AIDS Day -- to really say something about the importance of AIDS and what they were doing and what needed to be done.

Since then, World AIDS Day has remained a day that belongs to people, not to governments. It's not an official day that vanishes, you know, in the long list of official days. And even though there are official declarations and proclamations, the real heart of World AIDS Day has always been what people do on that day to think about AIDS, to remember those who have died, to think about how important it is to protect the living.

GROSS: What is the theme of this World AIDS Day?

MANN: The theme of this World AIDS Day is "Children Living in a World with AIDS." And I think the -- that formulation is important because it concerns not only the 600,000 children newly-infected in 1997. It doesn't only include the 1.1 million children who are living with HIV or AIDS this year. It also includes the rest of the world's children.

We grew up -- that is, those of who in our 40s and 50s -- grew up in a world in which AIDS -- we grew up in a world without AIDS. Today's children grow up in a world that has this entirely new fact that is so important to their lives and to their behavior.

And I think it's really a very good thing that the UN AIDS program is focusing this year's attention, as the major theme of World AIDS Day, on the question of the children -- children who are vulnerable to infection; children who are infected; and children who need to know and understand because this is now a world in which AIDS is a fact.

GROSS: Well Dr. Jonathan Mann, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

MANN: Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: Dr. Jonathan Mann is a professor at Harvard's School of Public Health. In January, he will become dean of the new School of Public Health at Allegheny University of Health Sciences in Philadelphia.

Coming up, architect Richard Meier on designing the new Getty Museum and Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Jonathan Mann
High: Dr. Jonathan Mann talks about the state of AIDS across the globe, as well as the speculations about an AIDS vaccine -- today is World AIDS Day. Mann was the founding director of the World Health Organization's Global Program on AIDS, and has just been named dean of the School of Public Health at the Allegheny University of Health Sciences in Philadelphia. He also co-edited "AIDS in the World."
Spec: Health and Medicine; AIDS; World Health Organization
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Jonathan Mann
Date: DECEMBER 01, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 120102NP.217
Head: Building the Getty
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:35

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The biggest and most expensive American cultural project since the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York opens this month in Los Angeles. The Getty Museum and Cultural Center sits on a 110-acre hilltop overlooking the city. It was described in a front page article of today's New York Times as "a stupendous new castle of classical beauty, a mountaintop temple where art's future worships its past."

My guest is the chief architect, Richard Meier, who is considered today's preeminent museum-builder in America and Europe. The new center is a complex that houses the Getty Museum, photographic collection, research library, and more.

Meier has designed outdoor bridges and balconies connecting the separate spaces. I told him I thought it would be nice to step outside and clear your eyes before going back inside to look at more art.

RICHARD MEIER, ARCHITECT, AUTHOR, "BUILDING THE GETTY": Well, it is nice, and in fact the museum is designed in such a way that you go inside and outside and back inside, and that's part of the museum experience -- so that you explore a small section of the museum's collection, go out, look at the views, look at the gardens, sit by the fountains -- and then go back in. It's not a hermetically sealed experience -- the way in which many museums are.

And what fascinates me is the way in which people use the outside spaces in a way that's not possible in other parts of the country because of the weather. We have outdoor meeting rooms, outdoor conference areas, outdoor sitting spaces, outdoor congregation spaces -- plazas and courtyards and fountains which people will sit around and just enjoy the views, the vistas, and being there.

GROSS: Now, part of the exterior is travertine -- a stone that you got from Italy. In fact, you had 14,000 tons shipped from Italy. That must have been pretty frightening, to order 14,000 tons of stone and then wait for it to arrive.

MEIER: Well, we didn't order 14,000 tons all at once.

GROSS: Oh, good.

MEIER: It was over a number of years. But -- in thinking about the materials for the Getty Center, from the very beginning, it seemed appropriate that at least part of the center be constructed of stone -- a material that has a sense of permanence, solidity -- that in some ways anchors the building to the ground. And in searching for the right stone, the appropriate stone, for the Getty, we looked at just about every stone quarry throughout the world.

One day, someone came in and said: what about travertine? And I said what I'm really interested in is a much rougher stone than what one sees with travertine. And so they said, well, you know, what if we could make it rough the way you want it? And I said that'd be great.

And so we worked with the quarries in Italy to invent, as it were, a process by which the travertine is cut. And it's as though the big block of stone goes on a conveyor belt, and a guillotine comes and clefts the stone.

It drops on the stone and the stone cracks, as it were, according to its natural fissures. And in this way, we get a very rough finish and each piece of stone is unique because it -- of the way in which the cutting takes place. And it's very rough and it catches the light and it's fabulous.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Richard Meier, the chief architect of the Getty Center, which opens in December. It opens to the public on December 16. He's also written a book called "Building the Getty."

One of the things you're most famous for is your use of white exteriors, although you didn't use a white exterior at the Getty. So tell me first why you have so often used white exteriors in your buildings?

MEIER: The whiteness of the surface seems to me to articulate most clearly the architectural ideas -- the relationship between opacity and transparency; the relationship between open and closure; the relationship between linear elements and plainer elements.

But also, the whiteness reflects all of the colors that exist in nature. It reflects the changing color of day. It reflects the changing color of the seasons. It reflects all the color that's around us every day, and in that way it's full of color.

GROSS: Now, you know, I was kind of brought up knowing that, like, a white rug and a white couch were really impractical because they would get schmutz all over them. And is it the same kind of problem with a building? If you have a white building in a smoggy city or any kind of urban environment, does it get dirty?

MEIER: Well, I guess it depends on where it is. If it's in a schmutzy city, it's going to get dirty. But I think that most of the places which I've been able to build have a concern about the quality of air. And in Los Angeles or Atlanta, the quality of air is pretty good, and if you wash the building when you wash the glass every now and then, it will stay clean.

GROSS: Now, you didn't use a white exterior for the Getty.

MEIER: That's right.

GROSS: Why not?

MEIER: Well, when I was selected as architect, it was written into law that the building couldn't be white. I didn't take that personally, of course.


GROSS: Oh, sure.

MEIER: But it was felt that the whiteness of the building on the hill would be too glaring for some of the people.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Almost like a sun reflector.

MEIER: That's right.

GROSS: So I guess you got around that, in part, with the beige stone...

MEIER: With the stone.

GROSS: ... that you were using.

MEIER: That's right...

GROSS: So you see...

MEIER: ... the beige stone and the beige panels met all the requirements of the neighborhood groups who were very vocal in the whole process.

GROSS: So the beige stone is light, but it's non-reflective.

MEIER: That's right.

GROSS: While you were building the Getty Center, you were living in New York, but you had to obviously be in Los Angeles a good deal of the time. So you ended up moving into a house that I believe was adjacent to the site of the center. I guess this was an already-existing house, but you describe it as having been infested with rats.

MEIER: Well, when I moved into the house...

GROSS: Yeah.

MEIER: ... it was all painted black inside. Of course, that didn't suit me very well.

GROSS: That's right. Mr. White Exterior -- that's great.


MEIER: So the first thing I did was, of course, have the entire interior painted white, and got rid of all of the curtains and draperies and opened the house up to the outside, because it was such a great setting adjacent to the site where we were building.

But I didn't renovate the house, as such. It was really a cosmetic cleaning up that was done. And the previous owner, who had lived there for perhaps 25 years had stuff all over. I mean, I've never seen a place more packed with electronic equipment and furniture and everything you can think of.

But it was a house that was -- how can I say? -- not terribly well-tended over those 25 years, and in fact there was a lot of animal life around. There were snakes. There were coyotes, deer, and in fact, in the walls, lived a number of family of rats.

GROSS: How did you deal with the rats?

MEIER: Well, when I -- when I heard them crawling around at night, I would take a shoe and hit against the wall to try to get rid of them.


GROSS: A little taste of Edgar Allan Poe in your home. Did you worry about getting bitten or anything?

MEIER: No, I never saw one.

GROSS: Oh, so it was just in the walls.

MEIER: Yeah.

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Richard Meier. He's the chief architect of the new Getty Center in Los Angeles, which opens to the public on December 16. He's also written a book about building the museum called Building the Getty.

What were the buildings that you grew up around that made the biggest impression on you?

MEIER: When I was very young, I lived in New Jersey. And I don't remember any works of architecture that were around the area where I grew up. I would see magazines. I read books. But it was all from things that I had read about that influenced me when I was very young.

GROSS: So, what you saw around you was suburban homes?

MEIER: That's right.

GROSS: Shopping centers.

MEIER: Yep -- usual kind of suburbia.

GROSS: Right. I believe one of your early commissions was building a house for your parents. Was that fraught with a lot of anxiety?

MEIER: Well, in the beginning it was, because I had just begun my practice as an architect. It was one of the very first things that I was asked to do. And it was very courageous of them to ask me to do it. And they had lived in a three-storey house, and felt that as they were getting older, they wanted to live on what they thought was a ranch-type house, meaning a one-storey house, where they didn't have to walk up and down stairs.

So they asked me to design a small house for them. And I had the opportunity, while I was designing that house, to visit Falling Water -- the great work by Frank Lloyd Wright in Bear Run, Pennsylvania. And this is the most magnificent house I've ever seen to this day. It is spectacular.

And I thought: how can I do a house for my parents that ever can come close to this great work of Frank Lloyd Wright? But I was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright in wanting -- I wanted to make spaces which move from the inside to the outside; that were in his terms part of an organic architecture that related man-made to the natural.

And so, I had brick walls which were in the living room, that extended out into the garden, past a glass wall. And the house was a wonderful house. They enjoyed it very much. Of course, my mother felt that there was too much art and not enough closets, in terms of the design of the house, but other than that, you know, they really enjoyed it.

GROSS: Richard Meier, thank you so much for talking with us, and congratulations on the completion of the Getty.

MEIER: Thank you very much.

GROSS: Richard Meier is the chief architect of the new Getty Museum and Cultural Center in Los Angeles. It opens to the public December 16. Meier's new book is called Building the Getty.

Coming up, Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new CD by bass baritone Bryn Terfel.

This is FRESH AIR.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Richard Meier
High: One of America's leading architects, Richard Meier, talks about what it was like to undertake the architectural commission of the century, the building of the Getty Center in Los Angeles. He's just written Building the Getty.
Spec: Arts; Cities; Los Angeles; Museums; Getty Center; Architects; Richard Meier
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Building the Getty
Date: DECEMBER 01, 1997
Time: 12:00
Tran: 120103NP.217
Head: Handel Arias
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The 32-year-old, six-foot-four Welsh bass baritone Bryn Terfel has created a sensation in the opera world, especially in Mozart roles and most recently in Wagner. His latest album takes him into new recording territory, baroque music.

Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz has a review of Terfel's first album of Handel arias.


LLOYD SCHWARTZ, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: Bryn Terfel is full of surprises. After his acclaimed Mozart, he recorded an album of Rodgers and Hammerstein songs and he was just as convincing, without the inflation or condescension opera singers usually bring to popular music.

I saw him in person for the first time in September when he opened the Boston Symphony Orchestra season. He sang arias by four different Mozart characters in two different languages -- Italian and German -- not to mention a different body language for each character.

I was impressed how effortlessly and completely he shifted from one character to the next. And with that rich, full, infinitely flexible voice, from darkest sub-basement to gleaming top, his singing is as natural, various, and uninhibited as his acting.

His latest recording is devoted to a fairly neglected area of music: bass arias by Handel. In opera, basses are more likely to be villains or high-priests or the hero's best friend than romantic leads. But Terfel's first Handel recording reveals what a wealth of marvels Handel handed over to some of his relatively minor players.


Revenge, revenge, revenge, tumultuous prize
Revenge, tumultuous prize
Revenge, revenge, revenge, tumultuous prize
Revenge tumultuous prize

See the Furies arise
See the snakes that they rear, how they hiss in their hair
And the sparkles that flash in their eyes
And the sparkles -- the sparkles are back in their eyes

Revenge, tumultuous prize
Revenge, (Unintelligible)
Revenge, revenge, revenge, revenge

See the Furies arise,
See the snakes that they rear
How they hiss in their hair
And sparkles that flash
And the sparkles that flash in their eyes

SCHWARTZ: That was from Handel's setting of John Dryden's "Alexander's Feast" in which music itself has the power to stimulate Alexander the Great to wreak vengeance on the Persians.

Rage and revenge are staples of the bass inventory. In "Oh Ruddier than the Cherry" from Asus (ph) and Galatea, Handel turns the genre inside out. The monster Polyphemus is smitten with the lovely nymph Galatea. Handel uses dazzling coloratura to convey the comedy of the galumphing giant's clumsy attempt at romantic delicacy.

Yet the beauty of the music also humanizes the monster. We're touched by him as we laugh at his absurdity.


TERFEL SINGING: Oh, ruddier than the cherry,
Oh, sweeter than the berry
Oh, ruddier than the cherry
Oh, sweeter than the berry
Oh, nymph of light and moonshine night
Like kippings light and merry

Oh, nymph of light and moonshine night
Like kippings light and merry
Like kippings light and merry
Like kippings light and merry

Oh, ruddier than the cherry
Oh, sweeter than the berry
Oh, ruddier than the cherry
Oh, sweeter than the berry
Oh, ruddier than the cherry
Oh, sweeter than the berry

Oh, nymph of light and moonshine night
Like kippings light and merry
Light and merry
Merry by the cherry

Oh, nymph of light and moonshine lights
Like kippings light and merry.

SCHWARTZ: Veteran Handelian Sir Charles McHarris (ph) is the vivid conductor. Years ago, he conducted Terfel's very first professional opera performance at the Welsh National Opera. Terfel cheats a little on this album. He sings several arias originally intended for tenors, altos, or castrati. But who could blame him? One of them, "Hombre, My Feu" (ph) from "Xerxes," is the most beautiful aria ever written to a tree.

And in such familiar pieces as the three selections from "Messiah," Terfel sings with an intensity of devotion you seldom hear in this repertoire, which makes this disc the perfect Christmas present. I know I can't stop listening to it. I can't remember a recording that's given me more pleasure all year.


GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is classical music editor of the Boston Phoenix. He reviewed a new album of Handel arias sung by Bryn Terfel on the Deutsche Grammophon label.

I'm Terry Gross.

Dateline: Lloyd Schwartz, Boston; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: Classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews tenor Bryn Terfel's first album of Handel arias.
Spec: Music Industry; Classics; Handel
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1997 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1997 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Handel Arias
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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