Pueblo, Territorial, Spanish, Pueblo Revival, and Modern: What is Santa Fe Style when it comes to architecture? One way to distinguish one style from another is through the actual building materials:
Adobe: The predecessors of the modern Pueblo people, the Anasazi, built large dwellings of mud and stone in the Four Corners region. The name “Pueblo Indian” came from the Spanish, and means “stone masonry village dweller.”
Indigenous cultures around the world have built structures of sun-dried earth mixed with straw called “adobe.” Common in the Middle East, Spain, North Africa, South America, and the Southwestern US, mud was readily available, and environmentally contextual. Taos Pueblo is considered the oldest continuously inhabited house, built between 1000 and 1450 AD. Made from mud plaster mixed with straw, the iconic-tiered shape of soft-shouldered rooms inspires the Pueblo Style.
Wood: The other important building materials of the Pueblo Indians were the pine logs that held up the flat roofs, called vigas. In between the vigas are smaller splits of wood that create a herringbone pattern, called latillas.
Today, adobe is shaped into bricks using a mold made from wood, invented by the Spanish to streamline the construction process. This melding of Native American with Spanish architecture created characteristic elements of the Pueblo or Spanish Pueblo style, such as round walls, corner fireplaces, vigas, flat roofs, and porches, called portales.
Brick: With the opening of the Santa Fe Trail, new materials made their way into the local architectural style including fired bricks, mill-made windows and whitewashed posts and trim.
While New Mexico was still a territory, (1846-1912), the railroad brought all kinds of processed materials including glass, pressed metal, trim and moldings. These additions to the adobe buildings created a new Territorial Style of architecture, characterized by clean lines, columns and brick detailing. New Mexico State Capitol is a blend of New Mexico territorial style and neoclassical influences.
Stone: When French-born Archbishop Lamy began the building of the St. Francis Cathedral on the east side of the Santa Fe plaza, he used yellow limestone blocks quarried near the present site of Lamy. The cathedral was designed in the Romanesque Revival style with rounded arches, columns and towers.
Paint: With the advent of the Santa Fe merchants came enterprising immigrants establishing themselves on both sides of the Santa Fe Trail, bringing goods, styles and designs from their old world homes. A wonderful example of pseudo-Moorish, Spanish Renaissance style is the Lensic Theater on San Francisco Street. The art deco decor uses filigreed painting and plasterwork—sometimes in the shape of a stylized sea-dragon– that made this movie theatre a grand house west of the Mississippi.
As visitors came to Santa Fe from the East, West and Midwest an effort to save the original architectural style began, and the period of Pueblo Revival was born, ushering in a resurgence of Pueblo-Spanish and Territorial styles which became a new mashup, Santa Fe Style.
By an ordinance passed in 1958, new and rebuilt buildings, especially those in designated historic districts, must exhibit a Spanish Territorial or Pueblo style of architecture
Eco-Friendly Materials: With the advent of green building practices, new materials and ways of living in harmony with the environment have found a natural home in Santa Fe. A return to adobe and other natural materials has now become a force in contemporary home design.
New materials such as pumice, straw bale and rammed earth leave a lighter energy footprint and use the area’s nearly year-round source of solar energy. Bright colors, the play of light and shadow, and solid geometric shapes have created a truly global feeling to the architecture, and a Contemporary Style to add to the history of Santa Fe style architecture.