‘On Intricacy is perhaps unusual in that it’s not a monograph, nor is it a hagiography. John Meunier is still alive. On Intricacy celebrates and proselytises the ideas that John has articulated throughout his career. On Intricacy is not a book about him as such, nor simply a book by him, but a book with him, and it reflects his life’s work as an architect and teacher, in the UK and USA.
On Intricacy continues conversations between John Meunier and Patrick Lynch that first appeared in Issue 2 of the Journal of Civic Architecture. It also includes essays by Meunier, Lynch and the architect Simon Henley, as well as new photography of the Meunier House at Cambridge by David Grandorge.
On Intricacy also documents projects undertaken in collaboration with other architects including The Burrell Collection at Glasgow (with Barry Gasson and Brit Andresen, colleagues in the department of architecture at Cambridge University); the Wendon House and Edington House at Cambridge, and the sports pavilion at Essex University (with Barry Gasson); student housing at New Hall Cambridge (with David Handlin); and the Gordon House at Cincinnati, where Meunier was head of the architecture school at the university.
Meunier discusses collaboration itself, with colleagues and with clients, as an aspect of the intricate character of architectural creativity. An essay concerning the intricate collaboration between Madame Shroeder and Gerrit Rietveld on the design of the Shroeder House at Utrecht, is complimented by Making Desert Cities, a meditation on the role of the natural world and social life in the architecture and urbanism of Phoenix (where John was head of the design and planning faculty and now lives), comparing this with the intricacy of traditional desert cities. Intricacy is not only an aesthetic term, although it is a sign of quality in artistic work, as something intrinsic to human situations. Intricacy is something that architecture does or doesn’t reflect, and when it does, it tends to be life-like, vital, and therefore good.