Visual Arts Center

by | 26. Jul 2012

Cultural | Educational | Feature

Photo: Lourdes Legorreta


The College of Santa Fe has set out to create a program that will make the College one of the leading art schools worldwide, attracting the best students and recruiting the best professors.

To achieve this goal the College recognized that a world class building, a symbol of pride and academic excellence, was a necessary addition to a good arts program.

Before design started, Legorreta + Legorreta recommended that the College prepare a Master Plan that would take advantage of the new Visual Arts Center and also set the tone for future development. Over the years the College Campus had developed without a Master Plan which had led to a diversity of buildings scattered around the Campus.


Photo: Lourdes Legorreta

The Visual Arts Center will be built in two phases over a period of five years.
The five structure 52,000 square foot complex, part of phase one, contains the Marion Center for Photographic Arts, the Art History Center, Tishman Hall, Tipton Lecture Hall and the Santa Fe Art Institute. The structures are connected by courtyards and porticoes. The entrance to the complex is framed by a studio building and a three-sided tower.

Even though the Campus is outside the limits of the Historic Center Legorreta + Legorreta made a conscious decision, not to offend the city or the landscape, by designing a horizontal building with a residential scale.


Photo: Lourdes Legorreta



Photo: Lourdes Legorreta


To give each department a different personality Legorreta + Legorreta has designed a town, inspired by the concept of the little pueblo, in the place of single building.
The concept was driven by the programmatic and philosophical needs of the College;  unity and individuality. Each department had to be easily recognized, with open spaces for students to meet, interact and exhibit their work.

The exterior facades, clad in synthetic stucco, are painted deep orange and red. In contrast, the facades in the interior courtyards are painted brilliant colors; lavender, purple and fuchsia.


Photo: Lourdes Legorreta



Photo: Lourdes Legorreta


Located on the south side of the complex, the Art History Center houses the public uses for the College of Santa Fe Visual Arts Center. Faculty offices, classrooms, seminar rooms, conference room and the Visual Resource Library are placed around a courtyard. The Art History Library is placed in the middle as a sculpture; bringing drama and excitement to the courtyard. Tishman Hall, the only two-story structure, has painting and drawing studios, the teachers lounge and faculty offices.

Tipton Lecture Hall, a small auditorium for 100 people, sits alone as an independent structure.  Being part of the general circulation, connected by a portico, the Hall is also used by students from other schools. Activities include lectures, theater, movies and seminars.

The Santa Fe Art Institute has twelve bedrooms for students, four studios, a conference room, library, living room, offices, and an outdoor  courtyard for eating and exhibiting art.


Photo: Lourdes Legorreta


The Visual Arts Center received the 1999 AIA New Mexico Design Award, the 1999 Chicago Athenaeum Architecture Award and the 1999 Grand Winner Exterior Award presented by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Legorreta’s colors are alternately indigenous and alien to Santa Fe. His deep red and orange facades sustain the city’s architectural palette of earth tones; the brilliant hues of the courtyards within are more common in Mexico, but exotic here in America. These colors are more than willful gestures: They create outdoor rooms where, in Legorreta’s terms, “color becomes part of the space.” In these chambers, one seems intentionally divorced from the city:

Fuchsia and purple invoke a surprising sense of serenity, and the insularity of the courtyards gives respite from the sprawl of a modern campus and the retail strip that flanks the site. Legorreta’s design makes an illuminating proposition: Color offers a legitimate way for a contemporary architect to be a Romantic. He takes us from a less-than-bucolic setting to a realm more abstract than referential and renders color a moving experience.


CITY Santa Fe, New Mexico
ARCHITECT Legorreta + Legorreta
Ricardo Legorreta
Victor Legorreta
Noe Castro
Lloyd & Tryck