Track 6: INTEGRATING OLD AND NEW – BUILDINGS, DISTRICTS, and LANDSCAPES / Volet 6: Intégrer l’ancien et le nouveau – Immeubles, quartiers et paysages

Deconstructing Heritage: Constraint-based Adaptations at New Mexico’s First Public School

Saturday, October 14
10:45 AM - 12:15 PM

Located in a city that has partly defined itself through its architectural style, the New Mexico School for the Deaf (NMSD) is a prominently located campus in Santa Fe that has long balanced preserving its historic identity with the need to adapt to evolving educational models and the functional needs of a special education facility. Established by a Legislative Act in 1887, NMSD was the first public school in New Mexico and is the only land grant school for the deaf in the United States. While the school started with a single building constructed by hand, the campus saw significant growth in the 1920s-30s, a time in which the Pueblo Revival Style reigned supreme in the American Southwest. Ultimately, the campus would include more than a dozen buildings, almost exclusively in the Pueblo Revival Style.
NMSD has recently undergone a surge of renovation, new construction, and demolition projects, but the tension between maintaining historic integrity and identity and achieving the facility’s myriad needs have been compounded by a decline in enrollment and severe budgetary limitations, forcing some particularly difficult decisions regarding the campus.
Over the last several years, Dekker/Perich/Sabatini has worked with the public school system and New Mexico’s Historic Preservation Division to effectively address the needs of the school and protect the historic integrity of the campus. While some buildings have been restored or renovated, the state decided to demolish some listed buildings on campus when funding and enrollment could no longer support them. Although budgetary and enrollment constraints forced the decision to bring these buildings down, a strategy was crafted to honor the school’s history, including the preservation of significant features and building elements and the addition of heritage interpretation throughout the campus.
A thorough investigation of the school’s programmatic needs and an understanding of the campus’s evolution helped guide choices as funds became available. Backfilling of under-used spaces accommodated reorganization and consolidation of programs throughout the campus and helped to maximize the school’s engagement with the existing infrastructure. While some buildings, like Dillon Hall, were restored, others were slated for full gut renovations to adapt to the needs of the school. At other buildings, annexes were removed and contemporary or mid-century alterations stripped away to reveal the surviving Pueblo Revival architecture underneath.
This presentation provides a discussion of the tension between historic intent and fiscal reality, improving functionality while preserving integrity, adaptation for historic schools, and placing value on historic campuses.

Learning Objectives:

Keri L. Stevenson, AIA


Keri Stevenson is an architect, licensed in the state of New Mexico, with several years of experience in historic preservation and architectural conservation. Mrs. Stevenson has developed documentation and preservation strategies for several landmark buildings, including properties throughout the southwestern US. An architect at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini design firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and formerly with Conservation Associates in Santa Fe, Mrs. Stevenson focuses on advancing historic preservation efforts in K-12 and higher education facilities.


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Deconstructing Heritage: Constraint-based Adaptations at New Mexico’s First Public School

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