Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Quote of the day: But isn’t this how every house should feel?

image“Architect Dominic Glamuzina says [Megson’s original 1970’s house] invokes the feeling that one should have a cocktail in one’s hand at all times while wandering through it.”
- from an article reporting on an extension to Claude Megson’s Rees House  (part of this complex of townhouses)

More on the story and extension from the GlamuzinaPaterson website.

The Design, Build & Renovate trade publication featured it in April 2014, offering an interior pic showing the characteristic Megsonian diagonal relationship between kitchen and dining space:




[Top pic from the GlamuzinaPaterson website]

“I’m twice the architect you are!”

From a 2014 interview with Patrick Clifford, of Architectus:

Q: And what about the ideas around at the time and which teachers influenced your own thinking?
PC: There are particular memories that I certainly have of people from that time. We learnt drawing from Pat Hanley, who was a very helpful and incredibly encouraging teacher, and people like Fred Beckett, Dave Mitchell and Mike Austin, who were practising and working in a completely different way, and Claude Megson, who I did quite a lot of studio work with. There were visiting architects, like Marshall Cook, coming into the School and offering studio programmes.

ANZ: Are there any entertaining moments that stick in your mind?
PC: I can still vividly remember Claude Megson in the studio one day yelling out at Peter Bartlett, “I’m twice the architect you are!” Peter Bartlett was the distinguished teacher, academic and practitioner who designed the performing arts building at Auckland Grammar, amongst other things….
    The School of Architecture was an environment that had a lot more complexity than ‘you’re coming here to just be taught something about architecture’. There were complex personal relationships and views about what architecture should be and how it should be taught and so on. As a student, you have to navigate your way through that and, at some point, hopefully form a view yourself about what you think is important. My recollection of that time is that a lot of the teaching was fairly laissez faire; it didn’t offer a strong view. The strong view was that students should figure out, based on their own experience and understanding, how to make architecture. There were exceptions to that: people like Claude Megson, who said, “This is how I do it and, if you’re going to be in my studio, you need to do it this way”…

ANZ: Do you think that the laissez-faire attitude was possibly a good thing for your generation, in the sense that New Zealand had traditionally followed overseas styles, so perhaps a laissez-faire attitude was a way for new generations of architects to evolve with some different ideas based more in the New Zealand context?
PC: Maybe, but in the ’50s and ’60s some New Zealand architects had formed a view that modern architecture in New Zealand should be its own version: people like the [Architectural] Group and so on, who we tend to celebrate now but it wasn’t being taught about at Architecture School back then. It wasn’t like we were being educated in an environment that said, “Look, here’s what’s happened before”. It was rather more “you figure out your own path”.

ANZ: A little bit directionless, you mean?
C: Well, it was a challenge for students to figure out how to approach this. But there was a balance with the Claude Megson approach of “do it this way”. So, as a student, there’s quite a lot of decisions to be made in terms of the ‘how’ – some of which, you probably don’t figure out what effect it had until a few years later

Full interview here: NZIA Gold Medal winner, Patrick Clifford

The New Romantics

From a 2012 interview with the now=late Peter Beaven, “taking us back in time to 1972 when new ideas about architecture were taking shape and exhibited at The Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt.”

…This interest in new shapes and styles first took visible form at The Dowse Art Gallery in Lower Hutt in 1972. An architectural exhibition which the Dowse labelled The New Romantics, included the work of Ian Athfield, Roger Walker, Claude Megson, John Scott and myself. There were, by then, already salient differences among us. For a small country, the architects featured in the exhibition were a pretty excellent assembly, developing as a group several clear, broad paths, which could have taken New Zealand architecture beyond modernism into rich new fields of our own….
    Inevitably, the ‘new romantic’ movement never really flowered. Neither John Scott nor Claude Megson lived long enough to extend their great formal skills. Ian Athfield and Roger Walker each developed large practices. In the running of their practices, their early enthusiasm and originality necessarily drained away to some extent. Each now inhabits a different world from the world that the Dowse exhibition seemed to be ushering in.
    It is far harder today for a young architect to make such an individual impression. The fashion for following the favoured styles of the day has become uniform throughout the world, driven of course by the insatiable flood of images everywhere, which can only overwhelm local romanticism….
Claude Megson, another of the ‘new romantics’, was an Auckland architect who had a remarkable talent for astonishing manipulation of small spaces into great spatial experiences. Auckland, ever urgently wanting new experiences, gave him plenty of opportunities….
    The strands of originality in the work of the five architects identified by the Dowse began to wither away after 1984.
    You can see this in a vivid, visual manner if you place any copy of Houses magazine beside the book NZ Architects’ Houses, 1970. In the 1970 publication, page follows page of rich spatial delight: architecture of the greatest originality, all stemming from the use of our limited building materials and our trust in each other – builder and architect – which was typical of old New Zealand.
    The 1970s’ book shows that a great number of New Zealand architects at that time were all doing really beautiful, original work, very much our country. Houses magazine, of course, does its best but it can only show that the 1970s’ New Zealand originality, in most cases, has faded into varying streams of international modernism.

Full article here: The new romantics

“…fantastic really because he was so passionate…”

Carolyn Smith from Architecture Smith + Scully talked to Claire Ellery, editor Houses, “about running a practice and her life in architecture,” including …

Q: Do you think the way you approach architecture, then or now, was influenced by your peers and teachers at university?
I think for me I was possibly more influenced by some architects who were in practice at the time. At university it was the studio tutors who I think had the most influence. I had David Mitchell and Claude Megson, who was fantastic really because he was so passionate. You didn’t always agree with him. He was a very stubborn man but he did some amazing designs and they were kind of unique and he pushed you to follow an idea….

Full article here.

Enduring Architecture Award for Claude Megson’s Cocker Tonhouses

Cocker Townhouses / Claude Megson Architect. Image © Patrick Reynolds

Claude Megson’s Cocker Townhouses were awarded an Enduring Architecture Award at the 2014 NZIA Architecture Awards.

Remuera’s Iconic Architects And The Significant Homes They Designed . . .

From a post at the Kellands Real Estate site…

Being an inspirational architect and teacher himself, Claude Megson has had arguably the biggest influence on several generations of Auckland architects, while his many clients have been able to enjoy living in his enormously life-affirming houses.  Norris House in Walton Street won the 2005 Enduring Architecture Award and his iconic style is obvious in townhouses he designed in Hapua Street and Warrington Road.  Some of New Zealand’s currently acclaimed architects were students of Claude Megson.

Full article here, including mentions of Vernan Brown, Megson employers  Gummer & Ford, Roy Binney and Horace Massey.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Yes, you can buy Claude Megson’s house…


Now for sale by new owners, here's late architect Claude Megson's own house, perched above tree-clad Dingle Dell in Auckland's St Heliers, with views in the other direction out to Rangitoto and the harbour. A simple looking exterior concealing an awful lot of living within.


Megson took the small, boxy, brick house (right) designed by the architect of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Richard Toy, and transformed it into something magical, something giving the feel of having discovered a particularly poignant tree-filled glade somehow touched by the gods.

Writing about the transformation a few years ago, architectural critic John Dickson said of it, "It is impossible without the process of Megson's imagination to connect the cluster of small, confined rooms of the house as it was to the expansive, multi-levelled, vertical-fissured, spatial-phantasm that it has become."

A new structure was built over the original brick base, with balconies - described by [former Megson student] Andrew [Barrie] as "cages of mesh and steel tube" - projecting from the house out into the treetops… Andrew Barrie says Claude was a world-class architect. "His houses brought a sculptural quality but they were also incredibly tied to the way people live. Usually, it's one or the other and to do both was unusual ... there were few like him."

For Megson a house was a lot more than just a machine for living—the family house for example house should support and enhance family life, celebrating and artistically expressing all its many aspects. 

And English architectural critic Professor Geoffrey Broadbent, writing after a 1992 tour of Claude's Auckland houses had this to say:

"This," I said to myself, "is work of a very high international standard indeed." ...One is constantly struck by the surprise around the corner, the bright shaft of light penetrating from above into the softer glow of the main living spaces -- especially in Megson' own house -- that give his work such very special qualities...
There is an essential "rightness" about Megson's spaces, for pleasant occupation by ordinary, normal human beings. Such things, says Dickson, have gone out of fashion with today's students. Well, so much the worse for the students [and their clients!]. Perhaps it hasn't occurred to them that if they design real spaces for human comfort and pleasure, then even those anguished souls overwhelmed by post-Heideggerian "problematics" about the nature of their existence might, given spaces like Megson's to contemplate that nature of their "Being," come to more positive conclusions! Because that's the point about Megson's spaces; they are life-enhancing.
Broadbent, for once, is exactly right.


Claude built the house for his own family as a classic three-zoned family house: with parents’ realm and childrens’ realm’ linked together through the house’s public realm.  Agent’s photographs suggest the current owners (and vendors) have retained this spatial planning (well expressed in the exterior, as you can see below), but have restored the house and kitchen elements so they are “largely as they were.”


You may buy it through Barfoot & Thompson.


[Photos by Ted Baghurst and Barfoot & Thompson. More pictures here and here.]



Click to enlarge…




















Childrens Realm


Monday, May 06, 2013

Claude Megson: McMurray Rd townhouse

At present you have three opportunities to buy a home designed by the late Claude Megson, whose homes sometimes didn’t look much from the outside, but at their best created a world for those within that almost seemed to encompass the whole universe.


As British architectural critic Geoffrey Broadbent said of Claude’s work some years ago,

This is work of a very high international standard indeed. ...One is constantly struck by the surprise around the corner, the bright shaft of light penetrating from above into the softer glow of the main living spaces -- especially in Megson' own house – that give his work such very special qualities...
There is an essential "rightness" about Megson's spaces, for pleasant occupation by ordinary, normal human beings.

Consistent with this, and something about which Claude was very proud, once settled in his clients very rarely moved out—as is the case with this home here, where the original owner has lived there for over thirty years!


This  house is a small and almost original 1970s Remuera townhouse, with a later conservatory addition, currently showing at Open Homes.


More photos at Trade Me.


PS: Here’s another one in the same block that was recently renovated:

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Good House – Claude Megson

lgegg51621lgegg31621 NZ House and Garden magazine just featured this 1969 Megson house on their website.  The commentary starts provocatively:
    “Today’s building code would never stretch to accommodate the ideas of renowned architect Claude Megson. Some might say that’s a blessing but others would argue it is genius lost.”
I would be one of those others.
That’s not to say Claude’s ideas always worked out precisely as he hoped – one of his clients once told me that “Claude always floated about six inched off the ground” – but as the son of a builder he was always grounded in what could be done, and it allowed him to understand what should be done.
Designed in 1969 for an artist and his landscaping wife, this house at Waiatarua in West Auckland is on just  0.4 hectares of land overlooking the city.lgeg1621
     “Heart rimu ceilings and floors make the home warm and hospitable. The exterior is clad in vertical board-and-batten cedar and there’s a long-run steel roof. It ticked all the boxes for family living, with a separate cubby hole for the couple’s three children to play in and a world outside the windows to explore.
    “Tucked into a lush landscape, the home enjoys supreme privacy, with no need for fences between the neighbouring properties. The kids roamed the bush as if it was one big park, their only complaint that there was no dairy handy.”
Read the whole article by Claire McCall here.
[Cross-posted at the Claude Megson Blog. Photos by Patrick Reynolds]lgem1621