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John Gaw Meem

John Gaw Meem


John Gaw Meem was a monumental part of the History of UNM, as the official architect for the university, and because of the number of buildings that he built for the school, including but not limited to, the Zimmerman Library, the Memorial Chapel, and Scholes Hall.  He also is known for the restoration of the San Esteban Del Rey in Acoma, New Mexico, of which he was in charge as the architect and secretary for the Society for the Preservation and Restoration of New Mexico Mission Churches.  This incredible architect dealt with multiple areas of expertise.  He did commercial buildings on the UNM campus, but also designed many homes for clients, some of which still stand today as million-dollar homes.  Over his many years of designing homes and commercial buildings, he perfected the style of “Spanish-Pueblo revival architecture” and added his own twist into every building he created – literally. In every building he designed, he added twisted columns, usually on either side of a fireplace, a balcony, or a doorway. It was his signature.  John Gaw Meem was exceptional at making his buildings look like the masterpiece they were.  He used the Spanish-Pueblo Revival style but created a new way of doing it by using modern materials, such as concrete and steel beams, allowing for the walls to be thinner, but still having a similar effect, and the same regional feel.  Cultural Historian Chris Wilson says, “his buildings still serve as the ideal image of the Santa Fe style.”  This is a major indicator of the magnitude of Meem’s skill in architecture and in knowing exactly what needed to be done to make a building ideal to the everyday persons view. He was one of the last architects who designed every aspect of the building, the outside, inside, the furniture, the metalworking, and the woodworking of the building. This way of designing, where everything fits together in an exacting way as the designer planned for it, is truly a lost art.  Over the years, thieves have stolen irreplaceable pieces of Meem-designed furniture.

"JOHN GAW MEEM, THE SANTA FE ARCHITECT." Santa Fe New Mexican [Santa Fe, NM], 5 Jan. 2003, p. RE-34. Gale General OneFile, Accessed 9 Oct. 2019.

“A 1930's Visionary Who Looked Back and Saw Santa Fe.” New York Times, Jan. 9, 1992.


Nathan Cooper, History, 2021