lamesadevenn: Part Two

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September 19, 2011

In this series, trace the evolution of lamesadevenn, an international collaborative of architects, product designers and communication specialists who are redefining how and why we design. They’ve brought in journalist Seth Biderman and illustrator Nacho Durá to chronicle their “living projects,” like the Rancho—a live/work space they’re building to foster community and sustainability in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Check out Part 1: A Vision is Born, and learn about the challenges of finding the right site in Part 2: The Sweet Spot.

In late 2010, lamesadevenn hooked up with La Mesita, an emerging social profit organization in New Mexico. The convergence of spirits and philosophy was too compelling to ignore. Lawyer Todd Lopez, the driving force behind La Mesita, and lamesadevenn architect and project coordinator Christian Alba began searching for a site to make their dreams reality.

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  With 17 people to the square mile, New Mexico is one of the country’s loneliest states, and cheap land is still abundant. But cheap wasn’t the only criteria: La Mesita was a community-minded organization, and the idea was to be as close to Santa Fe as possible, driving prices up and options down. It took months before Alba and Lopez finally found a site that could work, on the dry southside of town.
    With 17 people to the square mile, New Mexico is one of the country’s loneliest states, and cheap land is still abundant. But cheap wasn’t the only criteria: La Mesita was a community-minded organization, and the idea was to be as close to Santa Fe as possible, driving prices up and options down. It took months before Alba and Lopez finally found a site that could work, on the dry southside of town.
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  Lamesadevenn cofounder Angus Eade baptized it “The Sweet Spot.” More than the fact that the site was affordable, Eade recognized the great potential of the neighborhood, a loose-knit group of folks dedicated to sustainability, education, and thinking out of the box. They were the kind of people lamesadevenn, and La Mesita, love.
    Lamesadevenn cofounder Angus Eade baptized it “The Sweet Spot.” More than the fact that the site was affordable, Eade recognized the great potential of the neighborhood, a loose-knit group of folks dedicated to sustainability, education, and thinking out of the box. They were the kind of people lamesadevenn, and La Mesita, love.
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  Eade collaborated with comic artist Jorge Zavellos to capture the moment. Lopez and Alba had both grown up in Santa Fe, and were wary of the town’s tendency toward new age extremism.
    Eade collaborated with comic artist Jorge Zavellos to capture the moment. Lopez and Alba had both grown up in Santa Fe, and were wary of the town’s tendency toward new age extremism.
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  Finding innovative ways to preserve the delicate high desert ecosystem would be crucial.
    Finding innovative ways to preserve the delicate high desert ecosystem would be crucial.
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  There’s little evidence that Lopez and Alba actually had a run-in with a llama, but Eade’s fictional embellishment captures one truth: the site came with some unexpected elements.
    There’s little evidence that Lopez and Alba actually had a run-in with a llama, but Eade’s fictional embellishment captures one truth: the site came with some unexpected elements.
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  Apart from a potentially collaborative neighborhood, the site also offered great views. But even as Eade took this shot, from the porch of a neighbor’s house, he noticed the bald patches of dirt between the juniper and pinon trees: evidence of erosion.
    Apart from a potentially collaborative neighborhood, the site also offered great views. But even as Eade took this shot, from the porch of a neighbor’s house, he noticed the bald patches of dirt between the juniper and pinon trees: evidence of erosion.
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  Superimposed topographical lines on this aerial view show how the proposed site—dead center in the photo—drops toward an arroyo, or sandy wash, running vertically through the left third of the photo. New Mexico’s sudden summer rainstorms are notorious for flooding these arroyos and cutting away at eroded banks—literally carrying away property in the process.
    Superimposed topographical lines on this aerial view show how the proposed site—dead center in the photo—drops toward an arroyo, or sandy wash, running vertically through the left third of the photo. New Mexico’s sudden summer rainstorms are notorious for flooding these arroyos and cutting away at eroded banks—literally carrying away property in the process.
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  Oceans recede, ice ages come and go, volcanoes explode: New Mexico is a geologist’s dream, but an architect’s nightmare. Lamesadevenn collaborator Nacho Dura’s illustration shows how the soil beneath the site varies in composition when you start drilling. Clayish soil is the problem: like cactus and camels, it drinks thirstily whenever water comes its way, and then holds on to it. Fed by spring runoffs or fall monsoons, these “expansive” soils can increase in volume by as much as 10%, wreaking havoc on building foundations.
    Oceans recede, ice ages come and go, volcanoes explode: New Mexico is a geologist’s dream, but an architect’s nightmare. Lamesadevenn collaborator Nacho Dura’s illustration shows how the soil beneath the site varies in composition when you start drilling. Clayish soil is the problem: like cactus and camels, it drinks thirstily whenever water comes its way, and then holds on to it. Fed by spring runoffs or fall monsoons, these “expansive” soils can increase in volume by as much as 10%, wreaking havoc on building foundations.
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  Realizing the lamesadevenn dream would take more than panache, the collaborators needed more information before they could start building, and so had to reach in to their back pockets to pay for a drilling service and soil study. Preliminary findings from the hydrologists’ report: if you want to build big out here, you’ve got to build low. It was time to start thinking about excavation—nearly 30 feet down into the ground.Click here to follow the lamesadevenn story from the beginning.
    Realizing the lamesadevenn dream would take more than panache, the collaborators needed more information before they could start building, and so had to reach in to their back pockets to pay for a drilling service and soil study. Preliminary findings from the hydrologists’ report: if you want to build big out here, you’ve got to build low. It was time to start thinking about excavation—nearly 30 feet down into the ground.Click here to follow the lamesadevenn story from the beginning.

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