Blog - Privacy at the Beach


Remembering Claude - Claude Megson Studio Master

Influence - Claude Megson (1936 - 1994)

Every now and again, the real estate section of the paper, or Trade Me, has some architectural gems featured. Very rarely a Claude Megson design comes onto the market. When one does its a real treat.

Recently, Claude's second ever commission (from the 1960's) the Jopling House built in Cliff Rd, St Heliers, has been offered for sale. I viewed the photos (reproduced here from Trade Me and Ray White's selection) and reminded myself about how influential Claude Megson was on NZ architecture in the later part of the 20th century, and more specifically on my own approach to design.

As a young architectural student in the early 1980's Claude was my Studio Master. I came to the School of Architecture (Auckland) through a draughting cadetship with the Ministry of Works. As a draughtsman I entered the course in Second Pro. Arriving in university from Tech (the former Carrington Tech) where I had completed architectural draughting and the Ministry (think Roger Hall's 'Gliding On') was a huge culture shock. Finding myself in Claude's studio was about as far away from my previous experiences as I could imagine. Like many other architectural students Claude was a huge influence on my design career.

Claude liked reference to himself as 'Frank Claude Wright', homage to Frank Lloyd Wright with whom he shared design ethos.

As students in Claude's studio we were challenged to think about the environment we were designing for. I learned that a beach house belongs at the beach, a country house in the country, a city house in the city.

As a young designer I soaked up the opportunity to learn from the 'master'. His carefully crafted designs were meticulous in their response to people and environment. The spaces that were included in a Megson design provided design specific features for every activity conceivable in the space - a private world full of books, music and comfort; where space was allotted for contemplation or to support social interaction around a place for meals with friends and family. Simply, he put people into spaces.

I remember in my 4th professional year (final) I was reasonably nervous when asked to come to Claude's office for his review of my design elective project, he told me my drawings and design reminded him of his early work. A high point of my time at the school.

As I've progressed in my own practice I have become increasingly focused on creating smaller homes, without compromising function while achieving homes that create light filled comfortable spaces. Claude's teachings have informed my approach.

I was pleased to meet Claude again in the St Heliers neighbourhood in the early 1990's, which it transpired were the last couple of years of his life, and was able to reminisce about my time at the School, and thank him for his influence on my design career. He asked me if I would like to do some working drawings for him - I was totally flattered. He remained larger than life, and animated about design and design ability, or lack thereof ...


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