The idea of a plaza still resonates in the human imagination as a place where residents gather to celebrate, or to sit quietly in the shade and contemplate the passing parade. New Mexico has the longest and most varied traditions of such public space in the United States – from The Plazas of New Mexico (Trinity University Press, 2011).
Pueblo plazas, Spanish plazas and Anglo courthouse squares dot nearly every town in New Mexico. Learn more about these community gathering sites – and the New Urbanist call to revitalize them – at 2 pm on Sunday, Oct. 16, when architectural historian Chris Wilson, photographer Miguel Gandert, and architect/urbanist José Zelaya discuss and sign their new book, The Plazas of New Mexico. The event is free with admission; Sundays are free to NM residents.
Through archival photographs and Gandert’s modern-day images, the book depicts an array of plazas ranging from Acoma, Taos, Las Vegas and Santa Fe to Albuquerque, Socorro, Portales and Mesilla. Along with architect and urban designer Stefanos Polyzoides, a founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism, the authors and other contributors document the design of these places and the rich heritage of community celebrations that help sustain them.
New Mexico's plazas, like urban spaces everywhere, are gaining renewed attention from the Smart Growth movement, urban revitalization and intensified historic preservation. Detailing the success of restoration projects, the book shows ways to encourage heritage tourism to improve local quality of life and community sustainability. The Plazas of New Mexico resulted from a multi-year research project involving 50 students, a half dozen faculty members, and outside experts working through the Historic Preservation and Regionalism program at the University of New Mexico's School of Architecture and Planning, which Wilson directs.
Wilson is also the JB Jackson chair of Cultural Landscape Studies at UNM. Known for his award-winning books The Myth of Santa Fe: Creating a Modern Regional Tradition and Facing Southwest: The Life and Houses of John Gaw Meem, his current focus is on the role of the reurbanization of the U.S. as a central sustainability strategy.
Miguel Gandert, an award-winning fine-art and documentary photographer and filmmaker, is a distinguished professor in UNM’s Communication and Journalism School. His recent work explores the contrast between the Hispanic life in Spain, Latin America, Old and New Mexico. He is working with Dr. Arturo Madrid on a Hispano Presbyterian memoir of New Mexico and with Enrique Lamadrid and Catherine Kurland on an ethnographic project on Mariachi Plaza in Los Angeles, as well as a film with Charles Briggs and the Warao Indians of Venezuela on indigenous health care inequities.
Honduran architect and urbanist José Zelaya has designed a broad variety of architectural and town-planning projects in the private and public sectors. He is a lecturer of town design in UNM’s School of Architecture and regularly contributes to master-plan designs of small cities, city centers, and downtown redevelopments. He is the founder and principal of JMZ arquitectos, a New Mexico architectural and urban design practice that works closely with communities to respond to their desires for good design, public space and community revitalization.