UNDER THE RADAR
How did the brilliant, intricate work of architect Claude Megson disappear from view?
The late architect Claude Megson is now getting the recognition he deserves.
Claude Megson is a remarkable Auckland architect who has all but disappeared from history. His work was widely exhibited and published during the 1960s and 1970s and won numerous awards. He was written about in the same company as nationally important figures Ian Athfield and Peter Beaven. He taught and influenced several generations of architects at Auckland University, from the mid-1960s until his death from cancer aged only 57, in 1994. He built up a substantial body of domestic architecture, including a number of remarkable mediumdensity homes that are almost as intricate as cities in their conception. So why is he so little known today?
Megson was always more loner than part of any club. Then, as now, he divided opinion among staff and students. This included accusations of egotism and a fairly essentialist view of the role of women in the home. He fell from fashion in the 1980s when his peers embraced postmodernism and he did not. They came to write the history. He was written out of it: his work suddenly seemed less contemporary, less worthy of discussion. The
Right A street elevation drawing of the Cocker Townhouses, which still stand in Freemans Bay today. This is Megson’s most well-known and most often reproduced project.