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Competing for Santa Fe's Identity
Did regionalism win or lose at the old railyard?
By Kim Sorvig

Santa Fe, New Mexico, lives off its cultural landscapes. By preserving and imitating regional places, it has become a world-class destination. Last spring, a design competition turned the city's attention to a neglected landscape: the Santa Fe Railyard. Fifty acres of warehouses, seldom-used tracks, and scruffy open space, the railyard is an anomaly amid adobe galleries and residences. Industrial and decrepit, it is both a local hangout and a broken link to a wider world.

Courtesy Ken Smith Landscape Architect

Although Santa Fe today is known for Pueblo/Spanish architecture and arts, it was the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad (AT & SF) that first linked these elements into an international attraction. The AT & SF was the first and largest promoter of Southwestern tourism. The railyard is AT & SF's last physical relic in Santa Fe and, to some, a last ungentrified bastion in a fake-adobe world.

Recognizing the railyard's importance, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) helped the city buy the site, then sponsored an international competition to design a 13-acre railyard park ( A detailed program called for the park to

  • demonstrate arid-region sustainability,
  • serve locals in this tourist mecca, and
  • respect regional identity.

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