April 21 - 24, 2010
Enchanted? You betcha! The Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation held its 2010 annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico from April 21-24, and it was a knockout! But of course the real ‘star’ of this gathering was New Mexico itself, the Land of Enchantment, the only state in the union where the night sky is considered a heritage resource!
The Hotel Albuquerque played the consummate host, conveniently adjacent to Albuquerque’s museum district and its Old Town. The latter was founded in 1706 by Spanish settlers, and boasts a central plaza with the landmark San Felipe de Neri Church as well as a plethora of shops, restaurants, and galleries. The Alliance was there to help celebrate its 404th birthday!
Following the Board meeting on the Wednesday afternoon (for Board meeting highlights please see the President’s message), delegates gathered at a bountiful meet-and-greet followed by the opportunity to share ideas at the much anticipated ’round table’.
The Alliance at La Bajada
We looked forward anxiously to hearing from local experts, and were joined by students and faculty from the University of New Mexico School of Architecture and Planning. (Early!) mornings were rife with papers covering the spectrum of enchantment: from Alcatraz to Buffalo to Fort Laramie! (For a full listing of the papers presented, click here.) The speakers portion of the conference was led off by two of the most compelling speakers we could have hoped for.
“With a Trickle of Water” was how Baker Morrow entitled his introductory talk. Mr. Morrow, a third generation New Mexican, is a landscape architect, who has practised locally for more than 30 years. His overview of New Mexican landscape history linked the pursuits and practices of the First Peoples, Spanish explorers, Mexican settlers, and American pioneers. He covered everything in between including Rio Grande cottonwoods, statehood, John Gaw Meem, and Route 66. Mr. Morrow’s warm, down-to-earth style was a welcome leaping off point for the conference.
Brian Vallo is a member of the Acoma Pueblo and spoke about the living history of Puebloan culture. Now based in Santa Fe, Mr. Vallo assists tribes in cultural resource management on tribal lands. He too spanned a wide range of topics including ‘origins’ and ‘emergence stories’ when speaking of ‘The Ancestors.’ Much effort is expended today in dealing with the question of adaptation, migration, and settlement (new beginnings in new places). Of particular note was preparation in pursuit of the on-going goal of tribal sovereignty and the ultimate ‘fulfillment of their inherent responsibility.’
Afternoons at an Alliance conference are typically spent out-of-doors with field excursions and rambles, and this one was no exception.
Not far out of the downtown core, Los Poblanos* is a 25-acre site, which was part of an original 500-acre ranch in the 19th century. Rehabilitated in the 1930s, there have been recent efforts to create an inn and complementary (La Quinta) Cultural Center. Among its treasures, the property boasts an organic vegetable farm, a lavender farm, John Gaw Meem buildings, a Rose Greely formal garden, and art by woodcut-printer Gustave Baumann, to name a few.
Meem is widely considered New Mexico’s greatest 20th-century architect, and his name is synonymous with the Santa Fe style. Rose Greely, a pioneer female landscape architect, was the first female graduate of Harvard’s landscape architecture program and worked primarily in the Washington D.C. area designing formal residential gardens. Los Poblanos is her only known work in the southwest. (*Poblano means rustic or rural in Spanish.)
Mr. Matt Rembe and Dr. Chris Wilson led respective groups through the complex, with suitable time to wander and to pick up souvenirs at the gift shop. For more information on the history and progress of this place, please visit www.lospoblanos.com.
Late afternoon Thursday saw Alliance members participating in walking tours of Old Town Albuquerque (in spite of the rains) led by spunky yet knowledgeable/entertaining guides.
Friday afternoon found the Alliance north of Albuquerque. La Bajada* is a scenic basalt escarpment and historically important landform. Located between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, it reflects a long span of human activities that include the Spanish El Camino Real and one of the first automobile alignments of Route 66. With 17 switchbacks, the route remains today as an early road engineering feat and must have been quite the automobile adventure. (*La Bajada means descent or downward slope in Spanish.)
The La Bajada acequia provides water from the Santa Fe River to the village of La Bajada. Acequias are historic communal irrigation systems that support the culture and livelihood of thousands of families in New Mexico today. Imported by Spanish settlers, acequias are engineered water conveyance systems that divert water from rivers, streams, and mountain runoff to fields. Acequias are often governed by community associations and administered by a majordomo.
In this context, the community of La Bajada is facing a number of challenges. Resident Henry Barreras welcomed us to his home for an overview of the situation. His nephew Darren Munzberg also provided a key voice during the proceedings. Other stakeholders included Arnie Valdez, senior planner with Santa Fe County; Kaisa Barthuli, Director of the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program; and Berenika Byszewski, a local archaeologist, who lent their knowledge in the undertaking of this exercise.
Following a bracing tour of the landscape, the group reconvened at Henry’s home and brainstormed ideas in order to meet head-on certain of these challenges. Mr. Valdez has committed to join us next spring in Fort Worth to report on ‘progress’!
On Saturday, we traveled to Acoma Pueblo west of Albuquerque. Also known as “Sky City“, this community was constructed atop a 367-foot (112-m) sandstone mesa. Likely established in the 12th century or earlier, it was constructed on the mesa for its defensive position and is regarded as the oldest continuously-inhabited community in the United States. The Acoma Pueblo is a National Trust for Historic Preservation Historic Site and an excellent example of a continuing cultural landscape. (http://sccc.acomaskycity.org/). Our tour guide on the Saturday afternoon was Gary Keene who offered us a tremendous, and tremendously moving, learning experience.
Of course one of the most memorable things about meeting in the Southwest is the food, and the Saturday closing banquet did not disappoint. It took place at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Centre, in itself a phenomenal focal point for the state’s (now) 20 pueblo groups. (www.indianpueblo.org)
Alliance delegates were treated to a most wonderful buffet in the Southwestern tradition which capped off a whirlwind of ideas, places, and people. Yet again, the Alliance extends its gratitude to our energetic hostesses Carrie Gregory and Lori Lilburn, who have shown us what dedication to the Alliance is all about. All in all, a suitably fitting (and filling!) and enchanting conclusion to the most successful Alliance meeting yet!