The Architect and the Artists appears in UoA’s Special Collections Twenty at 20


Author Bridget Hackshaw discovered two stained-glass window designs by artist Colin McCahon during her research for her prize-winning book, The Architect and the ArtistsThe University of Auckland has included the designs in their list of 'intriguing items’ in their 'Twenty under 20’ feature marking the twentieth anniversary of their Special Collections. Read on below.

‘One of the joys of working with researchers is sharing in their discoveries and gaining extra insights into particular items in our collections thanks to their knowledge and research. A researcher’s identification of two stained-glass window designs by artist Colin McCahon in the archive of architect James Hackshaw is one such example.

Author Bridget Hackshaw identified the window drawings in her father’s archive while undertaking research for her new book, The Architect and the Artists: Hackshaw, McCahon, Dibble which explores the 12 projects Hackshaw, McCahon and sculptor Paul Dibble worked on together.

These McCahon drawings ended up being instrumental in confirming the authenticity of the actual windows, which were originally designed for the MacKillop College Chapel in Rotorua in the 1970s but had since been removed and refitted into another school building.

Most people associate McCahon with bold, often large-scale paintings, while his windows are less well known. The slightly tatty, life-sized, one metre square, pencil on tracing paper working drawings, held together with old discoloured sticky tape, are not instantly recognisable as his work. However, they are likely to have been integral to the creation of the windows judging by the myriad of notes scrawled across them and their less than pristine condition.

After the windows were authenticated – based on these drawings and smaller ones Hackshaw saw later in McCahon’s archive in the Hocken Library — they were moved again in 2020 and installed in their third home in the Thurston Performing Arts Centre at John Paul College.

The extensive Hackshaw collection contains more than 300 sheets of drawings and two metres of photographs and project records, so there are bound to be other exciting items like this waiting for researchers to find, interpret and share through new scholarship.’