Barrio Capital de Analco

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Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Despite the advantages offered by the site's adjacency to numerous historical neighborhoods and landmarks, as well as the Santa Fe river park, the chosen site is dominated by underutilized infill opportunities, low density development, and a commercial dominated mono-culture.

The design team self-initiated this project with the purpose of preparing a comprehensive proposal for an area located immediately south of the historic downtown of Santa Fe. The 120 acre site has been identified as significantly underutilized and offers a challenging but excellent case study for sustainable infill development in northern New Mexico. While Sante Fe often prides itself on its comprehensive planning ordinances, progressive environmental policies, and unique preservation legacy, this project provides an opportunity to reexamine the role of urbanism, architecture and coding in 21st century Santa Fe. Specifically, this project proposes an improved state government campus, significant infill and retrofit development to promote urban living, a reshaped commercial environment, an enhanced infrastructure that promotes pedestrian activity and sustainable stormwater management, and a new urban code that compliments existing preservation intentions. In general, however, this project advocates a living settlement tradition and seeks to advance the public debate about development, sustainability, codes, and urban culture in the city of Santa Fe.

Santa Fe has been the capitol of New Mexico since 1610 and is located at the foot of the Sangre de Christo mountain range. Officially settled in 1608 by Spanish colonists under the Laws of the Indies, the city’s urban and architectural heritage is unique in American history. Shaped by diverse vernacular cultures, strong planning institutions, and the dry but mild climate of the high desert, Santa Fe has become a significant attraction for cultural, culinary, and landscape connoisseurs, people of wealth, and tourists. Artists and intellectuals in the early twentieth century helped to shape a unique architectural tradition inspired by native Pueblo buildings, Spanish colonial structures and early local Anglo-American contributions that were eventually codified as the Santa Fe Pueblo and Territorial styles. The city has one of the country’s oldest and most robust preservation cultures and requires new construction to conform to one of these two styles (this is especially enforced in its historic districts). Despite this preservation legacy and more recent progressive environmental policies, underlying Santa Fe zoning and transportation policies still promote conventional suburban development, albeit with a ‘Pueblofied’ appearance. Santa Feans usually recognize the results as undesirable and unsustainable, but the unfortunate perception is that sprawl and awkward modern infill projects can only be remedied by enforcing the rural, low and horizontal characteristics of historic Adobe ranchitos. Therefore, a major purpose of this project is to demonstrate that development can indeed occur as significant sustainable infill and be complimentary to the existing historic fabric. Furthermore, the project intends to show how a calibrated SmartCode can build on existing preservation ordinances in order to meet the original intent of the law.

Santa Fe’s economy is largely based on tourism and state government. As the largest employer in the city, the State of New Mexico occupies more than one third of the project site with the state capitol building (aka ‘the Roundhouse’), the state supreme court, and a wide range of state departments and administrative offices. While many of these 20th century buildings are architecturally valuable, their siting is often haphazard and characterized by automobile-dominated roadways, vast parking lots and underutilized suburban landscape frontages. A primary objective of the project is to propose a dignified state government campus that promotes improved public access, safety and security, as well as civic pride. The northeastern part of the site, referred to as the Barrio de Analco, is focused on Old Santa Fe Trail and its small grouping of historically significant buildings, including what claim to be the oldest house and the oldest church in the United States. Despite the advantages offered by these historic landmarks and the adjacency to the Santa Fe river park, the entire project site is estimated to have a population of less than 100, most of which is found in one retirement home. The eclectic railroad-era grid of blocks on the western part of the site is largely dominated by retail, hotels, offices and their underutilized parking lots. In summary, the site is dominated by an underutilized commercial mono-culture to the west, an under-utilized government office mono-culture in the center and to the southeast, and a small tourism-dominated historic fabric to the northeast. It is easy to recognize that this site represents one of the biggest missed opportunities in the center of Santa Fe, especially when considering that it is immediately adjacent to the historic downtown, the Canyon Road art gallery district of the historic east side, the historic and primarily residential South Capitol (aka ‘Don Gaspar’) neighborhood to the south, and the Santa Fe depot that offers good commuter rail service to Albuquerque via the Rail Runner.

This project suggests that the site’s landmarks, state government buildings, and natural features can serve as anchors to a revitalized urban neighborhood for healthy living, working, commerce and culture in keeping with the best Santa Fe traditions. Beyond this, the proposal seeks to demonstrate how infill and retrofit development can be sustainable at all scales, from architecture to infrastructure. But perhaps most importantly, this project seeks to demonstrate that current preservation laws set up to protect the unique local cultural container of Santa Fe through aesthetic control must be complimented by urban spaces that can help foster community life between the buildings. This project proposes that the city center can be livable and is part of the solution in sustaining our world.

Lessons learned: In general, the student team was for the first time exposed to the complex realities of building settlements. The project was commenced via a ten-day preparatory trip to New Mexico to visit the project site and study precedent-setting places, but also to meet with developers, green builders, architects, historians, town planners, preservation officials, and local citizens. During and after this experience, students were confronted with local politics, developers’ concerns about variances and entitlements, water conservation issues, the local retail market, affordability and the challenges of Santa Fe real-estate, social tensions between the various ethnic groups, bureaucratic planning frustrations and preservation complexities, local aesthetic preferences and the arts community, jurisdictional conflicts, security and safety on state government property, the immensity of suburban sprawl in Santa Fe, the tourism economy and the struggles to preserve the city center for real Santa Feans, and the successes and challenges of New Urban projects and practices in New Mexico. The sum of their experience and struggles with reality is represented in the students’ work, which is evidence of their ability to synthesize a broad range of issues within a relatively short amount of time. In particular, this group of students recognized the significance of design decisions at all scales. Having studied a range of precedent-setting places in New Mexico, the students found that urbanism and architecture need to support each other in order to yield convincing containers for a sustainable social, economic and civic life. The study of some poorly implemented New Urban projects in New Mexico as well as vast areas of Santa Fe itself helped the students to recognize the necessity of sound decision-making at all scales. As one student put it: “I used to think that a good masterplan was enough...that everything else was secondary. But now I know that the stucco wall treatment is just as important as the shop window, as the garden wall, as the frontage type, as the vista termination, as the block size, as the street width, as the pavement material, as the curb detail. In some way, they all matter equally.” This perspective encouraged the team to prepare a proposal that seeks to represent the best of Santa Fe in a holistic manner. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons for the students was the recognition of the role that architecture and planning have in supporting community versus the mere image of community. While the team worked hard to understand and appreciate the local preservation efforts and the intent to preserve the unique local character, students quickly realized that Santa Fe’s emphasis on the aesthetics of individual buildings missed the much more important mark of shaping the space between buildings. The idea of the great New Mexican plaza as a living, breathing center of the community, rooted in the land, is being dismantled by habitual processes of suburbanization, even in the center of the city. It is this idea of a living urban tradition that this project seeks to restore, so that the spaces between the buildings can support not only a local architecture but a local culture and the natural environment it dwells in.

Transect Zone(s): T4 general, T5 center.
Status: Proposed
Guiding Charter Principle(s): 10, 16, 24, 27
Project or Plan's Scale: Neighborhood
Features: Affordable/subsidized housing, Bus transit, Civic buildings & parks, Green buildings, Live/work, Mixed uses, Rail/fixed guideway transit, Sustainable infrastructure, Transit oriented development, Waterfront.
Land area (in acres): 120
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Project team designers: Andrews University School of Architecture (Andrew von Maur, Associate Professor Paula Droden, Assistant Dean, Daniel Acevedo, Adjunct Professor)
Project team developers: Student Designers: Mikhail Alert, Justin Barker, Richard Brace, Cynthia Dally, Ricardo Flores, Joshua Goheen, Elizabeth Henry, Isai Hernandez, Melody Johnson, Seth Myhre, Sarah Rockafellow, Justin Seinbold, Leah Smith, Ricky Timmons

Previous site status: Undeveloped infill

Starting/Ending date of construction/implementation: -