The Exploring Artful Places committee of the Corrales Arts Center announced that its Spring tour, “The Architectural Legacy of John Gaw Meem,” will take place Monday, May 15, from 10am-1pm on the University of New Mexico main campus.
John Gaw Meem came to New Mexico in 1920 seeking a homeopathic cure for tuberculosis and remained in the state to become one of its most celebrated architects. Pivoting from his education in civil engineering, he developed an interest in architecture while studying as a member of the Committee for the Preservation and Restoration of New Mexico Mission Churches. He founded his own firm in Santa Fe in 1924.
Beginning in the 1920s with the preservation of the churches at the Pueblos of Zia and Acoma, followed by El Santuario de Chimayo, Meem revolutionized New Mexico architecture. His Pueblo Revival Style work featured flat roofs and gently rounded walls of stucco and thick, round extending roof beams known as vigas. Early on, he carried out the important restoration and stabilization of Santa Fe’s St. Francis Cathedral. Years later he was instrumental in giving Santa Fe one of the country’s first comprehensive zoning ordinances, preserving the distinctive look of the New Mexico state capital we see today.
As the official architect for the University of New Mexico, Meem shaped part of the history of UNM. He designed the school’s exquisite complex of Spanish Pueblo Style buildings from 1934-1959. His work began in 1933, when he was asked by university president John Zimmerman to design a new Administration Building. Completed in 1936 with funds from the depression-era Public Works Administration, it was later named Scholes Hall. It continues to be celebrated for maintaining the Spanish-Pueblo feeling of solidity and strength, incorporating carved wooden balconies as ornamental accents.
The iconic Zimmerman Library is the centerpiece of the campus, both architecturally and symbolically. Celebrated as the most beautiful building Meem designed, it is a key monument to the Spanish-Pueblo revival in New Mexico. His five goals for the library included not only conformity with the Spanish-Pueblo style, but maximum accessibility and flexibility to permit enlargement. With its nine-story tower and broad sculptural masses, the structure dominates the landscape.
Meem’s most architecturally accurate reproduction of the New Mexico church tradition is his UNM Memorial Chapel. Designed in 1947 but not constructed until 1960, the small, nondenominational space is exquisitely rendered and remains an outstanding tribute to his legacy on campus.
The tour begins at the Zimmerman Library guided by Audra Bellmore, curator of the Center for Southwest Research and the Meem Archives of Southwestern Architecture. An in-depth powerpoint presentation will be followed by an exploration of the building, which Meem considered his most significant design. Participants will then walk the campus paths to visit other Meem structures, including Scholes Hall and the Alumni Chapel.
The $30 tour cost includes campus parking and a catered box lunch. Space is limited.
For more information, call 505-269-8385 or to learn more and to register for the tour, go to corralesartscenter.org
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