Premier Construction

SITE Santa Fe

Written by Roma Publications

SITE Santa Fe

SHoP Architects have designed a comprehensive renovation and expansion of the exhibition and support spaces at SITE Santa Fe in New Mexico; one of the leading contemporary art institutions in the South West.

Following its completion in October 2017, the project has been shortlisted for a 2018 WAN Award in the ‘Façade’ category.

Commenting on the award shortlisting, Ayumi Sugiyama, Director, Cultural Projects at SHoP Architects told Premier Construction: “This is the first time we have been shortlisted for a WAN Award and of course, we are honoured and excited to receive this recognition from the WAN Awards! The fact that we are receiving this distinction for SITE Santa Fe, a project that is meaningful to our office for multiple reasons, makes it even more exciting.”

The SITE Santa Fe project included action to modernise environmental systems, provide the staff with new administrative and educational facilities and streamline the handling and care for art in a reconfigured back-of-house. SHoP also expanded the existing building to provide several new galleries, a new public entry and gathering spaces indoors and out, as well as a new treatment for the building’s exterior. The folded, perforated aluminium system defining the exterior of the building was carefully calibrated to be appropriate both for SITE’s immediate context in an old railyard, as well as in contrast to the traditional construction methods and effects that prevail in the surroundings cityscape.

Ayumi added: “Preserving the existing stucco warehouse building, we expanded the building to the north and south with cast in place and reinforced concrete masonry walls and framed the two main entrances with aluminum “prows” cantilevering up to 65 feet at the north prow. We developed the façade by digitally modeling the geometry and later three-dimensionally coordinating the details with our fabricator. The ornamental panels themselves are diagonally cut to follow the overall pattern, perforated, and bent along their vertical edges to connect to the vertical fins. The bolted connections are purposefully left visible to add a secondary level of detail and to evoke the character of surfaces found throughout the Railyard District.

“On the interiors, we maintained the institution’s minimal palette aesthetic with concrete flooring and wood details for warmth. Partnering with a local workshop, we designed custom wood retail displays reflecting the façade design. In the south wing, glass storefronts maximize transparency and visibility between the courtyard, auditorium, and Education Lab.”

The character of the interior spaces was key for this project. This innovative arts institution has at times been restricted by the nature of its original building, a repurposed former beer warehouse. The minimal upgrades and interventions performed over the last twenty years to make it a home for art had become part of its story, but the building nonetheless still posed significant limitations. As the organisation matured, it faced profound logistical demands relating to art handling and displays that are common to museums everywhere. By engaging fully with the administration and staff in an efficient process of discovery, SHoP Architects developed a physical and material strategy to meet staging and support needs, while also designing new and renovated gallery spaces to delight the institution’s expanding audience.

The exuberant new exterior of the building is intended to signal a welcoming gesture to the community while also serving as an iconic new presence for the institution as it moves forward.

“We have received warm and gracious feedback about the new presence of SITE Santa Fe and the building design raising the bar for contemporary architecture in Santa Fe. We hear that it was impressive how much we were able to achieve with a modest budget,” said Ayumi. “Located at the heart of the burgeoning Santa Fe Railyard, SITE’s building expansion will continue to lead the next phase of an already active and dynamic public space. The building has been used to host events (including two senior proms!) and has already become an integral gathering place for the Santa Fe community, as well as an exciting destination for visitors.

“We were very invested in the project and shared SITE’s vision for their new building, so they could perform and function exponentially better in their new space. This project also marked a foray for SHoP into a newer typology, that of an art museum. To have been able to literally open up a previously closed-off institution, creating a welcoming design and giving the community a new space to enjoy and visit in the heart of the Railyard District was incredibly rewarding for our team.”


Site Santa Fe, Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico, Architect: SHoP


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