Karrie Jacobs


January 20, 2008

Time Travel

The Road to the Sixth Century.

What I’ve been doing for the past week or so is time traveling. The big lesson of the 21st century so far is that the past never truly goes away, and I’ve been in New Mexico bouncing between the 21st century, the 6th, the 10th, and the 17th, among others. I spent much of the last week visiting an isolated monastery in New Mexico’s high desert where the monks live by a set of rules written by St. Benedict roughly 1500 years ago (although the church building in which they worship is overtly modern) . And now I’m in Santa Fe, a city that has turned 400 year old heritage and an ancient building style into a mighty engine for the sale of unchallenging art and fringed suede jackets.

Here are a few buildings I’ve encountered in my travels:

This is the Taos Pueblo, looking today much as it did 1000 years ago. It’s said to be the oldest inhabited community in North America.

This is a casino/golf resort under construction along the highway north of Santa Fe. As you can see, it’s a faux pueblo, although it’s being developed by real Pueblo indians. Is a fake Pueblo erected by real Pueblo dwellers less fake than the zillion other examples of Pueblo-ism out there?

The traditional Pueblo two-car garage.

The Freeform Pueblo.

And here’s the Santa Fe version of that architectural preservation trend where you plop something new atop something old. In this case, a piece of property with two existing houses was developed into a five unit condo. I found this in the Railyard neighborhood near SITE, the one corner of town where contemporary architectural style is tolerated.

This is a view of the Silver Lofts, a recent addition to downtown Albuquerque. On my first day in New Mexico, I wandered unannounced into the office of the architect/developer, Infill Solutions, and spoke with one of the firm’s partners, Christopher Calott. He suggested that the dense modernist developments his firm has built in Albuquerque and now Santa Fe are actual truer to the spirit of the pueblo than most of New Mexico’s fauxdobe. I tend to agree. “We argue that we’re traditionalists,” he told me, “but the clothing isn’t necessarily traditional.”

The 21st Century Pueblo?