In today's Pasatiempo, Paul Weideman asks, "Short of the endless thirst for more business, what reason is there to prolong the myth of the adobe town at the expense of good design in other styles?" This last August, the New York Times wondered, "Is Santa Fe Ready for a Makeover?"
Clearly people don't want intrusive contemporary architecture in the historic district. But has our town become a center for fake adobe, a Southwestern-themed Disneyland?
The urgency to stop importing Eastern styles into Santa Fe began in the early 1900's (New Mexico became a state in 1912) and as Weideman points out, the concern then was to preserve narrow, winding streets and maintain low, classic buildings, nothing newer than Spanish-Pueblo revival style. Yet the town has managed to sneak in structures that don't abide by that spirit, such as the looming and inexplicable Eldorado Hotel.
Would it be possible to maintain Santa Fe style but with a tasteful touch of modernism? I don't think anyone wants to hearken back to the days of burro carts and muddy roads. Do you think Trey Jordan's work manages to do that by using contemporary materials in traditional ways?
"The historic district ordinance has more or less maintained Santa Fe's distinctive character, albeit with thousands of ersatz adobe buildings," Weideman says.
Today I was thinking about the ersatz adobe remark because here in Eldorado, almost all the homes are actually made of stucco. There are adobe elements (at our house we have adobe fireplaces and an adobe wall, for instance). Yet when we turn right from the little highway into this development, our blood pressure drops and we think, ahhh, what a relief. There is space, there are views, there is a respectful tip of the hat to the past. Earthen tones dot the vista encircled by the Ortiz, the Jemez, the Sandias, and the Sangre de Cristo ranges. Somehow it works.
Out here, making an effort to preserve the past did not lead to what architect John Gaw Meem called "dominating sameness" but rather to visual gentleness. However, the crucial element in Eldorado may be that we have wide open space. Downtown, there is no such luxury.
So the debate goes on.
Eldorado Photo: UNM School of Medicine.