John Gaw Meem

Audra Bellmore,

John Gaw Meem Curator

Erin Fussell, John Gaw Meem Fellow, 2016-2017.

John Gaw Meem: New Mexican Architect


John Gaw Meem's Portrait

John Gaw Meem (1894-1983), architect and leading advocate of Spanish-Pueblo style architecture.   000-675-NJS-Meem


John Gaw Meem, 1894-1983, is a celebrated New Mexican architect. Meem worked to both preserve and develop the Southwestern regional architectural style. He was born in Pelota, Brazil to American missionary parents. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1915 with a Bachelor of Science. In 1920 he contracted tuberculosis and moved to Santa Fe for treatment. While bedridden at Sunmount Sanatorium, he developed an interest in the landscape and historic buildings of New Mexico. When sufficiently recovered, Meem went to Denver to work in the office of Fisher & Fisher and to study at the Atelier Denver, a Beaux Arts Institute studio. In 1924 he opened an office in Santa Fe and practiced architecture continuously until his retirement in 1960.

Meem designed buildings in the regional Spanish Pueblo revival and Territorial Revival styles that reflected New Mexico's rich cultural heritage. He worked in historic preservation throughout his life through groups such as the Committee for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic New Mexico Mission Churches, the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, the Old Santa Fe Foundation, and the Spanish Colonial Arts Society. Meem also worked to document the built environment of New Mexico, through his involvement with the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Meem was the leading architect for the University of New Mexico from 1933 to 1959, designing some 40 buildings on the campus, lending to its distinctive regional style. In 1975, he donated his collection of plans, drawings, models, photographs, and office papers to the Center for Southwest Research (CSWR), University of New Mexico, where they form the basis of the John Gaw Meem Archives of Southwestern Architecture.  Today, CSWR houses the records of New Mexican architects/landscape architects and their firms, preservationists, designers, decorative artists, and scholars of the built environment.

John Gaw Meem died in Santa Fe, NM on August 4, 1983.