Nicknamed “Duke City” or simply ABQ, Albuquerque is home to a third of New Mexico’s population. Its mile high elevation makes it one of the highest metropolitan cities in America.
Duke City Discovered — Art and Architecture
Duke City is a fun place to visit … it’s colorful, vibrant and easy to navigate. We closed our eyes to its industrial sordidness, housing sprawl and notoriously high crime rate and enjoyed the blending of Pueblo Indian, Hispanic, Spanish and Anglo cultures, the eclectic mix of art deco, historic adobe and audacious modern architecture, the kitschy neon of old Route 66 and the astounding amount of public art dispersed all over the city.
Although Albuquerque has a rather modest skyline for a city its size, it has a unique nighttime cityscape. The illuminated buildings provide an otherworldly glow to the downtown area.
Albuquerque has one of the largest public arts programs we have encountered. Hundreds of large scale murals, mosaics and sculptures are scattered about town … sometimes in the most unlikely places.
The 3D murals on the downtown fire station are quite unusual and held our fascination for quite a while.
Wrapped around the exterior of the Convention Center is an inventive and colorful mosaic.
Although the Pueblo Revival and Spanish territorial style architecture of Albuquerque’s roots are still being reproduced, the city has fully embraced the innovation and vitality of modern architecture.
We learned to appreciate the stark concrete boxy structures that depend solely on bold colors and shadows for architectural interest.
The old and the new seem to converge in harmony on historic Route 66. Danny liked the ultra modern lines and angles of this building.
Parking structures are usually hum-drum slabs of concrete. But this one offers a unique approach with its modern flair. We thought the awning over the entrance was a nice imaginative touch.
Albuquerque has preserved much of its historical past. Intermingled among the sleek and the modern stand beautiful turn of the century buildings. The magnificent Occidental Life Insurance Building (1917) with its glazed white terra-cotta tile façade is almost blinding. We loved the Gothic arches and ornate interlocking floral patterns. It is thought to have been modeled on the Doge’s Palace in Venice.
Just steps from the Occidental Life Building, is the kitschy Burt's Tiki Lounge. Although it looks like an abandoned building by day, at night it’s transformed into a rip roaring music club.
The former Federal Courthouse (1930) is an example of Pueblo Deco architecture … a unique blending of adobe building styles, American Indian motifs and the geometric lines of Art Deco.
The two story entrance surround, faced with terra-cotta tile, has molded inlays with geometric motifs and the Native American swastika.
The limestone facing contains the Navajo thunderbird and patterns derived from Hopi pottery.
The Courthouse is topped with a Mediterranean-style red tile roof and a dazzling gold-domed cupola.
Albuquerque Museum of Art and History
We visited the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History mainly to see the special exhibit on the fabulous Alvarado Hotel … one of the grandest hotels and most elegant dining rooms in the country at the turn of the century. No photography was permitted so click here for a good summary of the exhibit. Sadly, due to the greed of the railroad and lack of public support, the Alvarado was torn down in 1970. The irony is that nothing was built on the spot for thirty years … it remained a dirt parking lot. In early 2000, when something was finally built, it was a replica of the demolished building. How's that for irony?
A mural just blocks from the former site of the Alvarado hotel is a fitting tribute to the demolished building. Note the newspaper headline.
Outside the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History is a very pleasant sculpture garden. Sherry became especially enamored with the sculpture entitled "Earth Mother, Offerings for a Good Life" by a Jemez pueblo artist.
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