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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: November 17, 2003
Volume 39, Number 9

Calott awarded for Gallup courthouse square design

By Carolyn Gonzales

Chris Calott wears many hats. He is a professor in practice in the School of Architecture and Planning as well as interim studio coordinator of the school’s Design Planning Assistance Center (DPAC); a partner in Infill Solutions, an innovative urban design and development firm; and a principal in Calott + Gifford, a partnership dedicated to architecture, housing and urban design.

Calott + Gifford and their collaborators Thomas O. Leatherwood Associates, recently received the 2003 Innovation in Planning Award from the American Planning Association, New Mexico chapter, for their work with the City of Gallup and McKinley county to redevelop downtown Gallup, renovate its 1930s era courthouse and create an urban space connecting the courthouse to downtown.

Calott + Gifford – Gifford is Tom Gifford, a 2000 graduate of the School of Architecture and Planning – received the award, but the real reward, Calott said, came from Gallup and McKinley county voters who passed a recent bond issue to pay for the proposed redevelopment. Work will start in 2004.

“We worked for three to four months to understand the region, the city, its history and economic development. Afterward, we held a three-day public design workshop, or charrette, to engage the community in the plan. We had between 150 and 200 people attend,” said Calott, who added that he thinks community involvement, a basic DPAC approach, is a strong reason behind voter support.

Calott said that the community wanted a downtown image for Gallup and the ability to improve their economic initiatives through the city’s downtown space.

Calott said that Gallup is a courthouse square town, not a plaza town. “Other New Mexico courthouse towns include Deming, Carlsbad and Lovington. It is strictly an American urban archetype. Gallup does not have its history in a Spanish plaza, but was developed by mining and the railroad,” he said. A national expert on the courthouse square, Calott gave the community an explanatory talk.

The community expressed their desires. They wanted a war monument to honor the Japanese-American Medal of Honor winner from the Korean War who lives in Gallup, veterans and the Navajo code talkers. They wanted a large open space and for their classic courthouse to be visible and accessible.

“We added Heritage Grove, a pleasant canopied area attached to Memorial Square. Heritage Grove represents the present and the future as well as celebrating the diversity of the people in the area,” he said. The two urban spaces will take up six blocks, which means some structures will be torn down in order to connect the courthouse with Coal Avenue, the city’s main street.

As “professor in practice,” Calott is out in the community practicing what he’s teaching and teaching what he practices. “I teach because I love to engage students in projects connected to practice and cities,” he said. He added that he would not have time to be involved in so many community initiatives – or involve students in them – if he were tenure track.

The City of Gallup submitted the project for the Innovations in Planning Award. “Only one award is given. We were up against other municipalities, designers and planners,” he said. He added that Ken Hughes, regional planning section chief, local government division, in the state’s Department of Finance & Administration, gave them the award at a recent planning symposium held at UNM.

“I want to continue to work with students at UNM and to meet the needs of small and medium cities throughout New Mexico,” Calott said.

Although he wears many hats, Calott’s shoes are well-worn steel toe boots. It’s what he wears on construction sites and how he gets around in his fast-paced world.