UN­DER THE RADAR

How did the bril­liant, in­tri­cate work of ar­chi­tect Claude Meg­son dis­ap­pear from view?

Paper Boy - - Contents - TEXT GILES REID — PHO­TOG­RA­PHY JACKIE MEIR­ING

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.

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