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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: September 8, 2003
Volume 39, Number 4

Martineztown landscape represents people
UNM architects commemorate events, residentsí donations

By Carolyn Gonzales

SimonIn the 1960s, Martineztown was considered “blighted, a slum area” slated for total relocation. Today it stands out as a strong example of urban renewal. The neighborhood now looks to imprint its history, culture and tradition on the landscape.

Alf Simon, director of the landscape architecture program in the UNM School of Architecture and Planning, received an $18,000 grant from the UNM Center for Regional Studies to develop an urban landscape framework for the Albuquerque neighborhood.

“We don’t want a reflection of what Martineztown is or has been, but rather a representation of the events and people of the area that helped shape it. We want it to show how the neighborhood is evolving and what’s important to its residents,” said Simon.

Program accredited for full six-year term

This spring, the Landscape Architecture Accrediting Board (LAAB) reviewed the School of Architecture and Planning’s master of landscape architecture program. The board recently announced the program is granted formal accreditation for a full six-year term.

Program Director Alf Simon said, “We are absolutely delighted to receive a full six-year accreditation as we enter the fourth year of the landscape architecture program.  This clearly establishes our national position as a program of quality.”

UNM joins a select group — approximately 30 institutions — offering an accredited professional landscape architecture degree at the graduate level. Even as a relative newcomer on the academic landscape, more than 40 graduate students are enrolled this semester.

“Given the critical needs of this profession and New Mexico, the landscape architecture program plays a pivotal role in enriching and broadening interests of both the architecture and planning programs – bringing a common educational focus to the school in the planning, design and sustainability of our built and natural environment,” said Roger Schluntz, dean, UNM School of Architecture and Planning.

Working through summer and continuing now in the fall, Simon, Chris Wilson, J.B. Jackson Professor of Cultural Studies and research scholar Frank Martinez, both in the School of Architecture and Planning, are working with students Suze Green and Tawny Allen to become familiar with the history and details of the area’s revitalization process. Another element is to identify themes to be translated into the landscape.

“By understanding the history we will be able to punctuate the landscape, establish the neighborhood as an entrance, a gateway to downtown,” said Simon.

Simon said that Martineztown has improved significantly thanks to urban revitalization, and it is unique to the city and country. Martinez said that the residents themselves are to be commemorated for claiming, retaining the area. For that reason, those who stood firm against relocation will be one of the themes.

“It didn’t become gentrified or made a ‘trendy’ area,” Simon said.

South Martineztown, defined as Martin Luther King to Lomas and Broadway to the Regional Medical Center, is the focus of the project.

“This area is one of Albuquerque’s oldest and has gone through historically difficult times with regard to land use,” said Martinez, who indicated they have documents establishing the neighborhood’s existence back to 1832.

The School of Architecture and Planning, primarily through the Design Planning Assistance Center (DPAC), has a lasting relationship with Martineztown. “DPAC did a study on the area and maintained a dialog with the community while work went on at the hospital and at Longfellow Elementary School. DPAC provided the base material to help formulate the ideas,” he said.

The hospital and the school are two other themes. “The community is committed to commemorate the Sisters of Charity for 100 years of service to the community through St. Joseph’s hospital,” said Martinez.

The roads that help define the neighborhood will also be themes. Edith was part of the old Camino Real, Martinez said. Tijeras and Martin Luther King used to be the old Tijeras Canyon Road while Mountain Road was previously Carnuel Road, he said.

“I make the argument that the original north-south, east-west crossroads passed through Martineztown,” said Martinez.

Another artery, the Acequia Madre de Barelas also went through the neighborhood, Martinez said. It will also be a theme used in the project.

Each theme will have a location and design.

“The challenge is to bring the history into the landscape without turning it into a museum. No one wants to live in a museum,” Simon said.

It will not be the decision of the design team – Simon, Wilson, Martinez and the students – to decide ultimately what is put in place. “We generate ideas. We help clients understand what they want and help them through the stages, such as securing grants. This way, when they meet with a consultant they can articulate better what they want,” Simon said, adding, “We are not in competition with area professionals. They are our friends and graduates of our school.”

Martinez, who was a fellow at the Harvard School of Design, said, “The School of Architecture and Planning is developing extraordinary talent. They are making a significant contribution to the context of New Mexico. I am excited to work and interact with them.”