New Mexico was still a territory when the University of New Mexico was founded in 1889. We love not only its distinctive southwestern architecture but its school motto: "Light is the Life of Humankind."
University of New Mexico — A Unique Oasis
UNM is a lovely oasis… and everywhere are distinctive flat roofed brown adobe buildings. The university’s unique style can be attributed to one man, William Tight, the University's third president. He championed to establish Pueblo architecture as a campus wide style … to create what he termed "a monument to the Pueblo Indian culture." Although not well received, history would eventually vindicate his vision when John Gaw Meem, was selected as the University's official architect in 1933. Meem, known as the "Father of the Santa Fe style" designed over 30 university buildings. To this day all new construction still pays a loose homage to the Pueblo style.
(Note: You can click on most photos on this page for a larger view.)
Our number one reason for visiting the UNM campus was to explore the original Zimmerman Library ... an architectural gem. Designed in 1938 by John Meem, the library is considered one of the finest examples of Spanish-Pueblo Revival architecture in the Southwest… in fact it was named New Mexico’s building of the century by the American Institute of Architects. This photo shows the original entrance which is no longer in use.
The carved painted sill under this large metal window with carved wooden posts and corbels was just a small prelude to the attention to detail found inside.
As we entered the original Library ... now called the West Wing ... we were delighted to find Meem's original concept drawing prominently hanging above the entrance.
Four murals depicting the peoples of New Mexico by Kenneth Adams (Artist in Residence at UNM in the late 1930’s), line the Grand Hall.
This hand-hammered and punched-tin light fixture is just one of the many details funded by the WPA and crafted by Native American and Hispano artisans.
We were delighted to find this original punched-tin chandelier hanging at the south end of the Grand Hall ... and another at the north end.
We strained our necks while viewing the ceilings in the reading rooms. The hand carved beams and corbels are elaborately detailed … many with painted Pueblo motifs.
We were astonished to find the original furnishings ... all designed by Meem ... to be in such wonderful condition. Sherry took a fancy to this hand carved chair.
The addition of a new main entrance and space to house the Center for Southwest Research was seamlessly integrated behind the original Library. We liked the use of colors and texture in this multi-level stairwell.
Our last stop at the Zimmerman Library was at the Castetter Cactus Garden located at the original main entrance. Just a few flowers were in bloom with hundreds of buds just waiting to burst forth for their Spring extravaganza.
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