Monday, May 25, 2009

Stewert Brand writes in How Buildings Learn:

Santa Fe Style.  America's oldest public building, the adobe Palace of the Governors (1610) on the Santa Fe plaza, was the fist expression of the city's determination to redesign itself as a tourist town.  One of the devisers of the architectural Indian-Spanish-Anglo amalgam called Santa Fe style was archaeologist Jesse Nusbaum.  From 1909 to 1913 he remodeled the portal of the Palace backward past its Victorian and Territorial periods to an imaginary colonial look.  The result was one of the four or five New Mexico buildings most influential as a model for thousands of Santa Fe style buildings.  

I'd sorta heard that before about Santa Fe in general, but there is more.  

He writes:

Spanish explorers arrived in the area in 1540 and began colonizing in 1598 (twenty-two years before the Mayflower Pilgrims) with an architecture somewhat similar to the Indian pueblos based on the traditional Mediterranean courtyard house--masonry, flat-roofed, with small general-purpose rooms added casually.  

The indians eventually modified this to their tastes, and added the Spanish fogon's and (beehive) horno.  The Spanish curtsied to these honors by situating their houses in shape and directionally more to the Indian tradition.  A few hundred years would go by.  Not many other Europeans were winding this way.  Lewis and Clark (who didn't even come close to Santa Fe) wouldn't begin to open the West for 150 to 180 years.  

Anglos came down the Santa Fe trail eventually and in 1879 the Atchinson Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad brought the rest of the story.

Mr. Brand also shows the evolution of the Zuni Pueblo closer to where my parents reside (the Pueblo is 153 miles West of Albuquerque.)  Picture after picture of the Pueblo accepting the forms and contrivances of Western Architecture (like a door at the ground level.  The Pueblo was a fortress with ladders leading to its various terraces, giving the enemy the classic problem of being low and exposed.  The fact that the Pueblo remains, says something to me about it's intentions in design. How 'bout you?)  Just wicked to see those pictures.  I didn't see any ladders left in the 1992 picture, though, since the Pueblo had conceded to the brilliant qualities of a pitched roof at around 1950, even a safe ladder after that would have led to bad footing up top.  Or maybe the ladders fell apart and the youngsters lost interest.  I don't know.

Then there is this passage which I am uncomfortable with because I have enjoyed just what he seems to be mocking:

WHO'S FIREPLACE is it?  Anglos call it a "kiva fireplace" and put several in every Santa Fe style building, carefully burning pinon firewood upright inn the approved local manner.  The name shows that Indians are considered chic and Spanish not so chic, because the built in corner fireplace is in fact Spanish and is called a fogon.  The Indians picked it up from the Spanish colonists.  They never did put any in the kivas (cermonial clan rooms)-- that would have been too much of a cultural trespass.

Alright Mr. Brand, but really now... have you never been warmed by one?  Liar.

I don't mean to give Mr. Brand too much shit, 'cus I really like his incredible book.  Besides he doesn't truly throw too many stones given he was responsible for The Whole Earth Catalog, a palimpsest of truly confused cultural identity.  Will it be the Tepee, or the coke bottle mudhouse, my dear?  Perhaps we'll have our wedding with Native Americans and find ecstasy between buffalo (or perhaps their skin alone?)  I suppose he merely found the whole evolution of Santa Fe Style fascinating.  And it fits right in with his philosophy of utilizing in architecture the famed pattern languages that have accreted over time in traditional buildings, among most cultures.  It's the modern stuff that seeks to make a monument, of the motley manor.  'Course that sometimes happened in the perfect past, if you have to ask.

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