Saturday, January 8, 2011

Albuquerque's Environmental Story

Educating For a Sustainable Community

People Create Their Own Environment

Architecture and Infrastructure

by V. B. Price

In Albuquerque, the built environment includes more than the normal urban conglomerate of commercial, public, and residential buildings, paved roadways, parks, bridges, signs and billboards, and underground or above-ground utilities. It also embodies an urban history of nearly 700 years.

Architectural Paradox

The long evolution of Albuquerque's built environment has resulted in the curious architectural paradox of New Mexican structures such as La Luz - the conceptually modern, pueblo-esque townhouse development on the west mesa - and the nondescript commercial jungle of signs and "decorated sheds" that line Menaul Boulevard (and Central, Lomas, Eubank, Candelaria, Juan Tabo, Montgomery, San Pedro, Wyoming, Louisiana, San Mateo, and Tramway).
Such a paradox is peculiar to Albuquerque. To my knowledge, no other major metropolitan area in the United States has an urban tradition rooted in its ancient past, and only Santa Fe, among smaller cities, copes with a similar paradox. Some archeologists contend that the middle Rio Grande Valley, where Albuquerque now sits, once contained perhaps as many as 45 multistory Pueblo Indian villages made of adobe, stone, and wood, with an estimated total population of some 15,000 people.
That ancient tradition and the newer Spanish tradition that replaced it are reflected in regional architecture here that runs the gamut from lath-and-plaster "adobe" tract homes to the Albuquerque Sunport and the Spanish Pueblo style Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Both have coexisted with nonregional design since some time before the coming of the railroad in 1880.

Accelerated Growth

As Edna Heatherington Bergman writes in her lucid UNM master's thesis, The Fate of Architectural Theory in Albuquerque . . . 1920--1960, Albuquerque has always been "at the crossroads of the ancient and the up-to-date." But since the end of World War II, the influence of ancient architecture and urban design on the city's built environment has been of decreasing importance as the past is crowded out by accelerating growth.
By 1995, Albuquerque had a total area of 163 square miles. Between 1885, when the town was incorporated, and 1940, Albuquerque grew to only a tenth of its size today. In 1891, the city's built environment covered 1,996 acres; by 1995 it occupied more than 103,357 acres. City statistics show that the built environment of residential, commercial, and public structures grew between 1963 and 1995 by 63,204 single-family homes, 50,109 multifamily residences, and 5,640 commercial buildings. In 1950 Albuquerque had only 425 miles of paved streets, and 1,700 miles in 1979. In 1988, when the city first systematically kept records of lane miles, there were 3,186 miles. (one directional mile equals two lane miles). By 1995, 3,538 lane miles were paved. In 1985 there were 2,300 miles of water lines; in 1995 there were 2,550 miles of water lines.

Pueblo Deco is a new term coined by architecture historian Marcus Whiffen of Arizona State University. It refers to the American regional development of the 1920s European Art Deco style, which resulted in such buildings as the KiMo Theater in Albuquerque with its profusion of Indian motifs. Pueblo Deco is the melding of the ancient and the up-to-date.

kimo theaterimage by Nuevo Anden

read more about architecture:

An Architectural Treasure: Miami’s Art Deco District


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