El Camino Real Information

Cultural Context

The larger organizational concepts for this project are based on the historic or traditional ways in which Spanish people have lived in New Mexico and Mexico throughout the centuries.The project incorporates the overall or extended neighborhood by creating a central ‘Zôcalo’. The ‘Zôcalo is the main square or heart of a Mexican town (literally the plinth or pedestal) . This  Zôcalo is centrally located and easily accessible by the Colonias on the hill and the Village of Falcon Ridge apartments across the street. The Zôcalo consists of a soccer pitch, steps/seating into the soccer pitch, a promenade up the center of the project that includes shades structures of photovoltaic’s , trees, tot lot, playground and community building without BBQ area (see community context below).

The overall project (40 units and one community building) can be considered the ‘Village’, and each grouping of houses (4 Zaguàns or Clusters)) can be considered  individual ‘neighborhoods’.  To better define the design intent of the groups of houses, we have used the Spanish word ‘Zaguàn’. Zaguàn literally means ‘hallway’, but can be more accurately translated as a ‘alley’ or ‘living hallway’.  Historically, the Zaguàn was an outside area where business was transacted, or was the area immediately outside of the house where daily life was carried out.  Although the true Zaguàn in this project would most accurately be the courtyards in each ‘neighborhood’, we adopted this name for the individual groupings due to the concentration of environmental and community importance occurring around the courtyards.

The concepts for laying out the Zaguàns came from the notion of the Spanish community itself; from the idea that mothers are the ‘center of the community’.  The buildings that compose the Zaguàn create a layout such that the matriarch is able to work at home and oversee children playing in the courtyards and monitor people coming and going into the courtyard. The courtyard space, porches and kitchens have adapted the more architypal New Mexico hacienda. The courtyards are areas of refuge for the entire family and serve a greater environmental purpose (See Environmental Design below).

Community Context

This project is located in the heart of Hatch, NM, less than ¾ mile from downtown and adjacent to agricultural lands.  Numerous community resources such as retail shopping, a community center and swimming pool are within walking distance.

This project has many layers of community. The pedestrian connection to the local community and off-site amenities provide a broader sense of community, while the Village itself, with its 4 ‘Zaguàns’, fosters opportunities for a tightly-knit, local community. The ‘Zôcalo’ enhances the sense of community by serving as the center of village life.  The photovoltaic shade structure between the community building and soccer pitch is intended to be the main outdoor congregation space and a weekend market. Adjacent to this structure and the community building is a community garden area and on the other end of the promenade is a pecan and fruit orchard. These areas including the private gardens in the Zaguàns can be used to provide produce for the weekend market.

Additionally, the central courtyard in each Zaguàn is a place where occupants may gather in smaller extended family groups.  The large front porches are intended to promote outdoor living and social interaction.  This project creates numerous gathering areas where the community can gather from very public to very private places.

Vernacular Design

This project celebrates the beauty, variety and efficiency of traditional Southwest Architecture in Southern New Mexico. The vernacular design of this project is one which people can easily identify and which represents the local building typology proven to work for centuries in this specific environment. Vernacular iconogriff structures such as windmills have been used as way finding and working cisterns to provide water for the community garden and orchard.

Environmental Design

This compact development project is a site specific, climate-driven, environmental design that focuses on energy efficiency, water conservation, appropriate use of materials, recycling and indoor air quality.  It will be produce onsite 90% of the energy required to operate the residential units and community building, using highly insulated, efficient building envelopes, highly efficient equipment/appliances and a 156 KW photovoltaic system. This project is a LEED platinum registered project.

Each Zaguàn has an extensive courtyard surrounded by 10 residential units.  In each unit, windows open to the courtyard and allow the courtyard to function as man-made cooling microclimate. The courtyards are shaded by the surrounding buildings and landscaping, and rainwater captured from roofs provides water for the trees, shrubs and gardens to help create a cooler ‘oasis’.  In the summer, the cooler air of the courtyard can be drawn up through the homes passively in the evening to super-cool the units at night.  The cool air can dissipate the heat stored in the exposed mass of each unit, and the warmer air can be efficiently drawn out through the dormers, allowing more cool air to enter.