Whether it stems from the influence of the hit television show Mad Men, or even the rise in popularity of Ikea furniture, modernist building is hip again. Even in Albuquerque.
And perhaps the greatest and most prominent example of modernist architecture in Albuquerque is the Simms Building, a Downtown office tower built in 1954. Simms, with its large glass exterior, was designed by architects Max Flatow and Jason Moore, who brought a new type of modernism to the city’s skyline.
Brian Goldstein, an assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, wanted to highlight modernist architecture in Albuquerque — so he had a group of students from the School of Architecture and Planning research other examples of modernism.
A historian, Goldstein had his students search archives and create a website that maps out 26 examples of modernist architecture, including both commercial buildings and homes. Each property is highlighted in a case study, which includes recent and historical photos. The website is called Albuquerque Modernism. (Access the accompanying slideshow to see a some of the buildings on the list.)
“We tend to associate Albuquerque architecture with Spanish Colonial or Pueblo Revival, but Albuquerque is a modern city,” Goldstein said.
Albuquerque’s modernist movement began when the city became a hub for federal defense projects before World War II, prompting many East Coast families to move to the area. Goldstein said Albuquerque experienced a major population boom during that time. The city had 15,000 residents in 1920, and grew to more than 200,000 residents by 1960.
Goldstein said even though Albuquerque is thought of as a regional city within the state, during the 1960s people living in Albuquerque related to the city on a national and international scale.
“People designing these buildings weren’t thinking of Albuquerque as a moderate to major regional city. They were thinking of how to link Albuquerque to New York City by designing a building that looks like one in New York City,” he said.
Goldstein said that some property owners used to tear down modernist buildings, but are now trying to preserve them and use the historic architecture as an asset. The Peterson Property-owned Simms is a great example. It also uses a Mad Men-like campaign to market the building.
But unlike Simms, Goldstein said there are other modernist buildings that are vacant and being neglected.
“We worried as a class that if we don’t bring attention to these buildings, they’re not going to be around for very long because there’s no recognition that they’re important enough to save,” Goldstein said.
One example is the Solar Building, located at 213 Truman St. SE, which was the first active solar heated commercial building in the world. Built in 1956 for the engineering firm Bridgers & Paxton, the building was ahead of its time and was recognized by Life Magazine as an engineering accomplishment.
Today the building is vacant and the solar panels that made it so unique have been covered up.
By: Stephanie Guzman (Albuquerque Business First)
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