Thursday, February 28, 2019


Moving files recently I uncovered this 1994 obituary from the Herald sitting in my files -- Claude sharing a page with Henry Mancini, which may have amused him ...

NB: As far as I know, although there is a thesis by Claude in the Auckland School of Architecture library that used to be available (back when there was an Auckland School of Architecture library) there were no books by Claude ever published -- although I'd love to be corrected on this. There were however many articles on him and his work, one of which was called 'Claude Megson -- Utopian Idealist.' It was by architect writer and force of nature Tony Watkins, and it appeared in the Nov/Dec 1988 issue of NZ Architect.  

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Cocker Townhouses - #4/57 Wood St

Claude's Cocker Townhouses in Freeman's Bay have featured here before (here and perhaps most memorably here, when architect Ken Crosson revealed the they remind him "of the main character in Atlas Shrugged, Dagny Taggart" looking out and being energised by the city's skyline) -- and if you're keen you can still see Ray White's pics of # 3 online here).

Now for sale is townhouse #4: the townhouse in the southwest quadrant. The one with the tower!

The recipient of the 2014 NZIA Enduring Architecture Award, what strikes you when you visit (taking advantage of the Open Home), is how much privacy each unit is afforded, and how little you are aware of your neighbours. Who are very, very close. Yet also how much all-day sun each unit enjoys, even in this densely-built little site. It is an ingeniously interwoven set of spaces.

Claude's planning diagram indicates the basic site layout of the four attached houses, the central driveway looking down the vertiginous Gunston St towards the city's towers, with  a ring of protective enclosure to each unit opening up to private open space beyond. An exercise in enclosure and openness -- and as always, Claude's entrances invite you through from darkness towards the light.

There is a little more enclosure in this particular house than there was in 1973 when it was born. And a few more mirrors and "etched glass" than Claude would countenance (his denunciations of architects desecrating the spaces he'd designed with their mirrors could, and did, consume whole lectures). The online Megson Guide describes the struggle that gave these beauties birth:
Originally built as an investment property for Bill Cocker (a lawyer turned painter) and his sister Finola - who now occupy two of the four units - the building took four years to complete and involved enormous wrangling with neighbours and the council. Riffing on the forms of nearby villas and hinting at Mediterranean hilltowns, this building is a complex composition of prismatic forms in white weatherboards with shingle roofs, overlaid with filigreed timber balconies. The living spaces of each unit open onto a private courtyard garden. Bedrooms are located on a floor above, and the roof-level turrets - accessed via trap doors - house small studies with panoramic views over the city and harbour. [See New Zealand Architect no.6, 1977, and Home & Entertaining Aug/Sept, 2002.]
Giles Reid's masterful Megson monograph features these townhouses as one of Megson's early masterpieces, writing that (as with every Megson home, "each of Megson’s rooms and every ritual contained in them was designed around precisely dimensioned furniture settings":
The building is the product of clients wanting both a degree of retreat from the city and to give back to the area. It freely converses with the language of its neighbouring villas and yet also asserts its own modernity.
    The townhouses’ construction is extraordinarily intricate: white painted weatherboards, timber doors and projecting balconies, slate roofs and metal gargoyles. There is even a watch tower, accessed through a smuggler’s hatch after a vertical climb. It gives one of the best views of the city’s skyline...

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Wong House Update

Great news everyone!

Stuff reports that Claude Megson's award-winning 1967 Wong House, poorly-marketed as a demolition proposition, "has been saved from demolition" by the new buyers:
The award-winning Remuera cube house designed by renowned architect Claude Megson has been sold and will not be demolished.
Listing agent Holly Cassidy of Ray White Epsom says the house posed no concerns for the buyers when they went through the property. "They knew what to expect – what they would be walking into, so it wasn't a surprise for them.
"They have children and live locally, and they have been looking for a family home while renting. They are planning to renovate the house, but they say they won't be pulling down any walls or moving anything. But they will be reroofing and recladding with modern aluminium battens, not cedar (in a similar profile)."

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

The Wong House, 1965-67

Considered by a turn-of-the-century roundup in Home and Building Entertaining magazine to be among "The 50 Hottest [NZ] Homes of the Century" -- Megson would have been incensed to have featured down at 37 rather than straight in at number 1! -- the Wong House gave Claude his first NZIA Bronze Medal in 1969. That jury cited the creative weaving and interplay of space, which still remains.

What doesn't remain is some of the actual spaces, nor the original sculpture and stained glass, or timber weatherboards and timber joinery-- all long removed, or replaced with less sensorially delightful alternatives. Like smearing blancmange over beauty.

But that makes it no less desirable internally, nor in how it still so casually opens up the interior to its surroundings.

As the handy Megson guide describes it:
Cascading down a steeply sloping site, every room is expressed as an independent volume clad in dark-stained cedar weatherboards, the resulting composition a masterly interplay of material, line and volume.
Some of the interplay is still there, and the mastery can still at least be detected -- and in the right hands could be resurrected ...

There are open homes at the house on Saturdays and Sundays until sold (by 27 July, says the hopeful agent).

This is a fearfully difficult house to even see from the street, let alone explore. And since it is being marketed as a "create your individual home on (or over) its bones" basis, if you ever did want to see why it won for Megson an early-career Gold Medal, then these pictures and those few open homes may be your only chance.

Get along!

[Pictures from TradeMe, Ray White, Homes To Love, and the Digital Megson Guide]

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Enduring Architecture Award

Very happy to say that last night Claude Megson's Green House, in Glenfield, won an Enduring Architecture Award at the NZIA awards dinner. The judges said "to walk into the sculptural house is like stepping into a Mondrian painting."

Nice to see Megson's work being recognised, and his memory being kept alive.

NB: I posted about the Green house a couple of years ago, when it went on the market. By all accounts, the new owners' remodelling is a great success, and I'd love to hear more!

Monday, November 13, 2017

And just in time for Christmas ...

The November 2nd issue of Paperboy magazine gives eight whole pages to Claude Megson Counter Constructions, the first ever book on the work of this important but neglected New Zealand architect. 

The shorter online version of the article is here, and asks: How did the brilliant, intricate work of architect Claude Megson disappear from view? Conclusion:
His reassessment is long overdue. 
The beautifully-photographed book is self-published by UK-based architect Giles Reid, with generous backing from the Warren Trust. So here's your reminder that the last recommended posting date from the UK for Christmas delivery is Saturday 9th December.

Your price of NZ$69.95 includes postage and packaging. To purchase, go to: 
I hope you will take a look.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Jopling House, by Claude Megson



Way back in 1965 when a young Claude Megson was still finding his architectural feet, he was commissioned by the Joplings to design a small family home in St Heliers.The NZIA’s Megson Guide takes up the story:

Standing on a sheltered back site on Achilles Point, this house won a NZIA Branch Award in 1965. The building is composed of “units” of timber-framed walls of various lengths with a return at each end. Separated from each other by full-height windows or doors, these repeated elements are deployed to create spaces with different orientations and varying qualities of enclosure and interconnection. The original landscaping included pebble gardens and fishpond which allowed the volumes of the house to “float” above the site.



With several large additions at the front (large garage and a closed-in carport) that small home is now a large home, and the oiled cedar cladding has been painted over, but the small jewel Megson created is still to be found there behind it all, and in almost original form thanks to the current owners, Ruth and Duncan Ormond, who [ as the Herald explains] have done much to bring it back from the state in which they found it.

When Ruth was in her teens, she had the chance to look through a new cedar-clad home designed by Claude Megson and built in 1965.
    This is that house. Built for the Jopling family on a sheltered back section, it was Megson's second residential commission..   
    From time to time Ruth always thought it'd be great to live in that house and some 30 years on from that first viewing, Ruth and Duncan learned the house was for sale….
    The Ormonds have [now] lived here almost half the life-time of this house and they have decided to hand its place in architectural history over to another family.

It goes to auction today – when hopefully another family will be able to enjoy what remains of Megson’s creation, which is a great deal, with many of the features already there in this house that were to become so much a part of his work.


"It's like a Lego home but you can look right through the house from one end to the other wherever you are standing," says Ruth.
    Original features include exposed timber beams, built-in furniture and shelving and the circular moulded door handles.


Those built-in modules allowing a more direct relationship with the garden; the artful yet effortless-feeling negative detailing; the shafts of space through the interlocking parts of the house – open space contrasting dramatically with sheltering -- were to become a Megson trademark, making even the smallest of homes feel large-souled.


That’s how we felt when we visited over the weekend: the house, like our visits to all Megson’s houses, with their simple ingredients so carefuly arranged to create a home for the human soul, never failing to lift our spirits.


Almost impossible to describe in a photograph, the most successful of the spaces in this early home is his double-height dining room with built-in servery and direct garden access, a space whose essence Megson says is celebration, containing in this very early example the seed germ of everything that was to come in his later work. It is a delightful space to be in.



[Pics from PC, Herald, and Ray White Real Estate]