ABQjournal: John Gaw Meem

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Sunday, September 19, 1999

The 1900s have seen New Mexico grow from an out-of-the-way U.S. territory to a state known for science, sports, literature and the arts as well as for its unique cultural mix and brand of politics.
While many people have contributed in these areas, some have had a larger-than-usual impact. Some are known far and wide: Smokey Bear, Georgia O'Keeffe, the Unser family. Others might not have as high a name recognition outside New Mexico, but leave a legacy that helped define the state.
And in most cases, their influence has been felt far beyond New Mexico's borders.
Here is one of the 20 individuals or families who helped make New Mexico what it is today.

John Gaw Meem -- 1894-1983
New Mexico looks like New Mexico in no small measure because of John Gaw Meem. Meem, an architect who was drawn to New Mexico like many others in the 1920s for treatment at a tuberculosis sanatorium, saw something of beauty in the sturdy, rounded masses of adobe Indian pueblo buildings, which he called "an American fundamental form."
John Gaw Meem

When he began practicing as an architect in 1924, Meem's designs took in the squat masses of those pueblo homes, the viga ceilings and mud-plastered look. The result was the Pueblo Revival style and it has become the classic look of New Mexico in this century.
Hired by the University of New Mexico in 1933, Meem applied the style to 30 new buildings and created a campus that looks like no other. Elsewhere in New Mexico, Cristo Rey Church and the Museum of New Mexico's Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe and Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos are Meem creations.
Meem, who died in 1983, described the buildings that have become New Mexico's signature "as dignified in their simplicity as the land itself."


Compiled by Fritz Thompson, Leslie Linthicum, Bill Hume and Dennis Latta