Architects That Don’t Suck: John Gaw Meem

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

John Gaw Meem — native of Brazil, an amateur architect trained as a civil engineer — popularized the Pueblo Revival style in New Mexico. This 1992 New York Times article, which notes that Meem “married the spirit of native pueblo architecture with the necessities of the modern world,” is a good introduction to him and his work. I liked this quote:

“Some old forms are so honest, so completely logical and native to the environment,” he once wrote, “that one finds — to one’s delight and surprise — that modern problems can be solved and are best solved by use of forms based on tradition.”

As great as his aesthetic accomplishments were, I can’t help wondering if his greatest feat was using his influence to pass Santa Fe’s 1957 historical zoning ordinance:

That in order to promote the economic, cultural and general welfare of the people of the City of Santa Fe, and to insure the harmonious, orderly and efficient growth and development of the municipality, it is deemed essential by the City Council of the City of Santa Fe, that the qualities relating to the history of Santa Fe, and a harmonious outward appearance which preserves property values and attracts tourists and residents alike, be preserved; some of these qualities being: the continued existence and preservation of historical areas and buildings; continued construction of buildings in the historic styles, and a general harmony as to style, form, color, proportion, texture and material between buildings of historic design and those of more modern design.

Related

  • This National Register of Historic Places document (PDF alert) is an excellent summary of Meem’s life, work, and influence. Looks like a couple of Meem houses are up for sale right now.
  • The New Mexico Architectural Foundation gives tours of Meem’s buildings at the University of New Mexico and his archives.
  • A Notre Dame architecture student posts some inspirational quotes from Meem: “Well you know if you look back at this business of recalling a traditional form, it’s happened so frequently in history — the Parthenon built in marble recalls the wooden temples of ancient Greece. They could have built something that didn’t recall it, but they did recall it, and that doesn’t make that building a lie or something that is wrong. It’s legitimate, it’s right and of course the whole of the Renaissance does the same in the sense that they caught first from rediscovering Greek forms, Roman forms and they adapted them, they changed them, they didn’t copy them exactly, but the result was a tremendous era in architecture, of period, marvelous buildings, you cannot label all of that as being completely incorrect.”
  • John Massengale declares Santa Fe the most beautiful city of the 20th century.
  • Back here I featured the New Mexico adobe house.
  • Sir Barken shared some snaps of a Silver City, NM.

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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