Rethinking the Practice of Historic Preservation to Nourish a Community
Ohkay Owingeh, or “Place of the Strong People,” was established on the Rio Grande over 600 years ago. Located 30 miles north of Santa Fe, it is the largest of the Tewa pueblos. Its historic core contains over 100 buildings, including ancient homes, and an 1890 chapel. The buildings were in poor condition and 30% of the dwellings were uninhabitable. Such deterioration was not only a life safety hazard; it threatened the ongoing existence of an entire community. We worked closely with the Ohkay Owingeh Housing Authority on a preservation plan for Owe’neh Bupingeh, which is the Tewa name for the plazas. Our plan provides for quality housing within restored and new buildings, while returning the area to its traditional form. It also provides meaningful educational and workforce training for the Pueblo residents.
The project began after we secured a grant from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division through which we trained Pueblo students in GIS technology and mapped the village. The plan included assessments of all dwellings and preservation standards developed collaboratively with the tribe. Oral histories from tribal elders regarding the physical history of the Pueblo were integrated into our findings.
The first phase of construction, which was funded through HUD grants included modern amenities and adobe restoration, including the reintroduction of mud plaster to the buildings’ fabric. Pueblo residents were trained in these restoration techniques and, as a result of this program, have found jobs restoring adobe structures both locally and as experts leading projects in other countries.
Structural Engineer: ABQ Engineering; MEP Engineer: ABQ Engineering, M&E Engineering; Civil Engineer: ABQ Engineering; Adobe Consultant: Crocker & Associates; Photographers: Kate Russell & Minesh Bacrania
The Owe’neh Bupingeh Preservation Project has had a profound impact on the Ohkay Owingeh community and has been heralded as a model planning effort for Native American communities in historic settings.