Friday, 4 June 2010

Megson House – Claude Megson


From the Auckland Architecture Archive’s 'Megson in Auckland' guide:

_quote Megson created this house [at 40 Fern Glen Rd] for himself and his wife Cherie by partially demolishing and building over a modernist brick house by architect Professor Richard Toy (right), a senior colleague of Megson’s at the School of Architecture. (Remarkably, the Megson’s had lived in Toy’s house for 15 years before commencing work). The site – a corner section located on the brow of a steep rise - is vertiginous, and Megson’s extensions further emphasized the vertical. Toy’s house became a brick base over which a new timber superstructure was placed. Fixed to the downhill façade, a series of balconies – cages of mesh and red-painted steel tube - project the spaces of the house out into the treetops.”

40FernGlenn004 A two-zoned house* with the kitchen acting as the “hinge” between the zones—a kitchen opening up to terraces and the sky, since Megson’s death in 1994, it has been bought and sold and renovated “utilising [says the estate agent now trying to sell it] the skill of a London-based architect and former student of Megson to ensure a reverential transformation.” For reverential, read “sterile.”

132468380_full Nonetheless, you can head to the agent’s site to see more pictures showing the house as it is now. 


Writing about Claude's house a few years ago, fellow-lecturer at Auckland’s Architecture School John Dickson said of it,

_quoteIt is impossible without the process of Megson's imagination to connect the cluster of small, confined rooms of the house as it was (right) to the expansive, multi-levelled, vertical-fissured, spatial-phantasm that it has become."

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

_quoteThis," 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; even if “the softer glow of the main living spaces” has now been transformed into something more stark, as below, you might still get a sense of what he meant.


Cross-posted at the Claude Megson Blog.

*Two-zoned house: A family home giving room and space to both parents and teenage children, with separate "parent's realm" and another realm -- either for children or for guests—which meet around kitchen and family areas.


  1. It's gorgeous, but PC tell me why NZers have such ghastly shots of their bedrooms?

    Would it hurt to put full bedding on not just throw a white sheet over it and hope?

    I notice this phenomenon on many websites purporting to sell a home.

    Have some pride and make the bed look like you could sleep in it!

  2. @Cactus: No idea, really.

    Except to note that this house, like many new or renovated houses you'll see on real estate sites, is not presently occupied so it's got the same old rental furniture every estate agent uses.

    Unless of course (seeing he's the agent) it's a Michael Boulgaris thing?

  3. Not quite 'cosy' is it? The exterior is more attractive than the inside. No mention of multi-glazing anywhere. So, it would need a super heating system not just (ugly) heat pumps peppered around the outside.. More suited to warmer climes than NZ (land of the long white cloud=damp).
    ps. I enjoy your home architecture/design items.

  4. @Kevin: I think you'll find that's the work of the renovators, who seemed desirous of removing any trace of "cosy." Sadly.

    However, it's still designed to catch the sun, and in its thirty years or so of life it hasn't yet needed a heat pump, so ...

  5. But.. when I recall a couple of the 40 year old stucco monsters we lived in years ago, how did we tolerate them. Insulation=building paper on the roof, walls...nothing but stucco. Boy oh boy they were chilly and damp. Not built for sun either but for the 'look' from the road. That's a feature of this home in your blog, 'built for sun' all those years ago. WoW!


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