Not exactly a Claude Megson house any more – though it does retain something of the floor plan, some of the character, and nearly all of the glorious setting…
The original house was commissioned from Megson by Michael Hill, a Whangarei jeweller – but the fire that destroyed the house helped make him Michael Hil Jeweller. “It made me realise I'd been playing life too safe,” says Hill now.
So what actually happened was of course we built a beautiful home in Whangarei… we got Claude Megson, who is now the guru of architecture probably of New Zealand, looking back on some of those old drawings, and he had the most magnificent plan, the hexagonal house. And it was supposed to take nine months to build, and Claude is artistic and had no idea about costs and it just blew completely out. So it took two and a half years to build and it was very, very tough but it was quite a masterpiece actually, and in fact there was lots of similarity with [my current home]except it was in a hexagonal pattern. It was well beyond our means, but we completed it, and it was really for a gold medal for New Zealand. Claude was going to get a gold medal …
And we went to the pictures one night, and of course came out and Christine answered the telephone and Mr Strongman from along the road, was the one that called and saying, “Mrs Hill, I don’t know how to tell you this, but your house is on fire.” And I’ll never forget that night. We got into Christine’s Mini and roared along the road …and we’d turned round the corner and there right across, about a mile across the bay, in the bush you could see all the windows were orange and there were big flames. They were licking about 60 foot above. The house was just an explosion of flames and I realised it was all over.
And that night as I drove towards that fire, it was the night I made the decision that I had to buy my uncle out, which I did.
The house seen here is the house resurrected years later from that fire – and is now for sale! The estate agent’s site (from whom these photographs have been gratefully taken) says
Over time and between 2008 and 2011, the house has gone through major rebuild and modernisation, keeping the integrity of the designer and staying true to the original design concept of the modular hexagonal rooms. This masterpiece is a combination of intimate inter-related spaces, planned with family use in mind.
The original three-zoned house was designed to sit, not in the middle of the site as would have been so common, but around the edges of the site to best capture the views, embrace the site, and keep the larger expanse open for play. ( I seem to recall plans showing the pool and house at different corners of the site, with the walk between them along the site boundary, looking out across the harbour.)
The hexagonal geometry of the house was an organic development from site and programme – the grid itself “systematising the structure,” the hexagonal coming from the isosceles formed from “lining up centres.”
This is a site diagram based on notes I made in a lecture on the house Claude delivered in 1988:
[All photos by Bayleys. Site diagram by PC.]