Foreward to Only in New Mexico: A History of Architecture of the University of New Mexico

Just as New Mexico and its culture can rightly be described as unique among the America’s 50 states, so can the architecture and planning of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque be considered unique among America’s colleges and universities.

UNM’s blend of Pueblo/Spanish style architecture with regionally sensitive modernist forms is a direct reflection of New Mexico’s singular place in American culture. No other major college campus in this country is so deeply rooted in indigenous American and Hispanic history, nor so intimately tied to a long existing regional outlook and aesthetic.

While other campus planners and designers around the nation traditionally looked to Europe and used classical, Collegiate Georgian, Collegiate Gothic, Mediterranean, and International Style models, among others, UNM’s leadership, for the better part of a century, wanted the state’s flagship university to be a distinctly New Mexican place, what one wag called “a pueblo on the mesa.”

New Mexico can unequivocally claim to be the heartland of both Native American Pueblo culture and the first indigenous Hispanic culture in North America. Kubler, George, Religious Architecture of New Mexico. Chicago: Rio Grande Press, Inc. 1962. p. 5. The 19 distinct Pueblo governments and cultural milieus in New Mexico, which have survived European contact largely in tact, express what the late Tewa anthropologist Alfonso Ortiz called a “clearly unbroken cultural continuity” over more than two millennium Ortiz, Alfonso, ed. Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 9. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1979. p. 3.. That unprecedented record of survival in the New World is mirrored by the tenacity of Hispanic culture which arrived in Pueblo territory 450 years ago. The isolation of New Mexican Hispanics from Spain and Mexico in the 18th and 19th centuries resulted in the evolution of a still thriving local Catholic culture with a community ethos devoted to service, and complete with its history of creating stone and adobe mission churches, first built with Pueblo labor and employing both European and Pueblo engineering practices and aesthetics.

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