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Peripatetic Practices

This course explores the varied landscape of New Mexican architecture from ancient cliff-dwellings to the development of atomic science and private space travel. Our travels will be focused around key moments of tensions or contradiction within the built environment of New Mexico, examining a range of urbanistic and architectural responses to the state’s natural and cultural landscapes. For instance, how did a territory known for accepting settlers in any state of “health, wealth, or ruined reputation” develop as an elite tourist destination in the early twentieth century? In the postwar period, how did the architecture of nuclear testing exist alongside the ecological building practices of antiwar counterculture? We will compare Santa Fe, where rigid stylistic building codes have held sway for over a century, to the wild sprawl of Albuquerque, where the “anything goes” verve of mid-century Route 66 has given way to unremitting corporatism and strip-mall sameness. At stake in our exploration is not only how New Mexican architecture developed, but how this architectural practice reciprocally shaped and was shaped by the stories, narratives, and mythos of the state. To that end, our site visits will be supplemented by a curated reading list of local fiction and nonfiction. 


We will also partner with local institutions to gain a more comprehensive understanding of preservation, interpretation, and new construction within the context of contemporary New Mexico. One of the core learning experiences of the trip will be the opportunity to collaboratively create a photogrammetric model of Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1930s adobe house at Ghost Ranch, a remote structure set in one of the state’s most spectacular landscapes and currently not open to the public. We will gain further context about historical interpretation, adaptive reuse, and present practice through visits to AOS Architects and the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in Santa Fe.


This course begins with a week of preliminary research and preparatory lectures in Ann Arbor. We will then spend three weeks in New Mexico, during which time we will base our site visits and day trips out of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Ghost Ranch, and Truth or Consequences. 


True to the title of the course, our documentation and exploration will be nomadic and spontaneous, but grounded in rigorous historical analysis. We will document our findings through photography and sketching, using additional skills and technologies (such as photogrammetry and audio recording) where applicable. The final deliverable for the course will be a collaborative exhibition (either physical or digital) that combines historical analysis and student-created design interventions.