SHOWHOUSE SANTA FE 2014
Casa la Luna
10 Altazano Drive,
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Casa la Luna sits on 10- wooded acres on the edge of the Santa Fe National Forest. Just minutes away from downtown but a world apart in sensibility, the 1920s-era mansion features panoramic views and rustic seclusion amid old-growth piñons and junipers, arroyos, and rock formations.
Owner Amin Badre-El-Din and his wife commissioned renowned Jordanian architect Meisa Batayneh to restore and update the home and grounds, a unifying process that blended Pueblo and Territorial styles while retaining and refurbishing distinctive elements including original hardwood floors, rosewood ceilings, and period fixtures. Batayneh added a covered, colonnaded walkway around the interior courtyard to facilitate access to the surrounding rooms and retained the original stonework. Other dramatic features include intricate mosaic panels near the entrance depicting landmarks of the Holy Land and a stunning courtyard fountain symbolizing the four directions and four elements.
In the Shadow of the Moon Mountain
The Badr-El-Din house marks the last of the residences of Santa Fe. Describing this house as being at “The Edge” would not be too far from the truth. Nestled at the edge of the natural forest, at the edge of the la Luna Mountain and just off the historic Route 66, the house commands some of the best views of the Santa Fe city center below as well as the distant mountains of Los Alomos further ahead. The Casa La Luna as the house is called, lies at the foot hills of Monte La Luna and Monte Del Sol (Moon and Sun mountains) and overlooks the City of Santa Fe, the ‘City Different’ and the Rio Grande valley beyond.
In fact, it is part of the mountain itself, the stones used for the construction of the original house are of granite hewn from the same site, providing material for many accents throughout the revitalization and extension. This has also made the entire home completely organic and a symbiotic part of its environment, sort of a viewing platform providing vantage points for an observer anywhere on the site. The house, although nestled within its own forest of old growth native piñón and juniper trees, is perched on the edge of the Santa Fe National Forest on ten acres of land. It boasts arroyos, rock formations, private well water, and most significantly the asset of seclusion, yet it lies within the City borders of Santa Fe with access to City utilities and services.
A Relic of the Mixed Territorial-style Era
When the Badr-El-Dins first saw the original, crumbling Casa La Luna—a relic of the mixed Territorial-style era, and the beautiful city of Santa Fe, they fell in love instantly. It was perhaps Nat King Cole’s haunting voice crooning "Route 66." or the rare and exceptional clarity of the New Mexico air, perhaps the mystifying “Mother Road” of John Steinbeck’s classic novel Grapes of Wrath. Whatever it was that led the Badreddins to Santa Fe, they knew the moment they set foot in the prodigious old house that this was home.
Dr. Amin Badr-El-Din hails from Jordan, a country so culturally and artistically rich that the necessity to associate oneself with art and culture is perhaps intrinsic to the psyche of the Jordanian-born. To add to that, Santa Fe is internationally renowned for its contemporary, cosmopolitan sophistication—a city that is celebrated by a matchless quality: its ambiance. The city is also famous for its culture, art, and traditions. It is home to America's third largest art market, the Santa Fe Opera and hundreds of quaint artistically inclined shops. The city is New Mexico's state capital and the oldest capital city in the United States. But long before Spanish colonization and statehood, prehistoric man lived here. Consequently, the area has been home to many different civilizations and cultures making it impossible to not be influenced by the history of the three visible and distinct cultures; Native American, Hispanic and Anglo-Saxon.
It is no wonder that, like all of Santa Fe, this house is particularly precious to the Santa Fe neighborhood committee; it is one of the oldest houses dating back to the 1920s. Preservation of this heritage house was as important to the committee as it was to the Badr-El-Dins.
Maintaining Pueblo Influences
Although the prevalent styles of architecture in the region are chiefly Pueblo and Territorial in styles, the old house stood apart in its use of stone as the primary architectural material. The Jordanian architect, Meisa Batayneh, assigned with the restoration and revitalization of the project, constantly referred to her unique sensitivity to maintain the importance of this house in the context of Santa Fe. This is evident in the minimal intervention and the respect for the original structure by implementing the lightest of textures in the new additions with the widespread use of stucco, as is typical to Pueblo architecture and that of several other Pueblo elements, including the vigas (long beams whose ends protrude through the outer facades) plastered adobe-brick kiva fireplaces, bancos (adobe benches that protrude from walls), nichos (small indentations within a wall in which religious icons are placed) as well as the characteristic Pueblo flat roofs. The conscious decision to substitute soft rounded corners as is preferred by Pueblo adobe builders with the more Territorial-style of sharp edges was also a reference to the Territorial style that was rife in the 1920s, with the invention of the saw mill and the consequent “refined” architecture.
Updating a Historic House
Unification is a recurring theme in the language of the architecture—the use of the local material unifying shelter and the site, the link between the old and the new house. The effort to save the old materials while thoroughly updating and renewing the systems and infrastructure of the house is a case in point. From the 1920's hardwood floors and rosewood ceilings to the lights and bathroom tiles and fixtures—all saved and refurbished— the house has been brought into the 21st century. with new lighting, electrical systems, plumbing, wideband data, state-of-the art communications and fire, safety, and security systems. The original house though large and spacious, lacked an organized circulation system. One had to pass through adjacent rooms, public or private, to navigate through the house. To counter this error, the designer provided a covered, colonnaded walkway surrounding the courtyard that provides individual access to the rooms.
The courtyard encloses a fountain; the recurring theme of unification is exemplified in the design of the fountain, it is again both beautiful and symbolic. It represents the four elements at the foundation of all ancient civilizations. Fire (light)-Air-Water-Earth. Each element’s symbol is aligned with its respective cardinal direction E-W-N-S. The symbols used consist of letters from various ancient scripts, including Greek, Chinese, Sanskrit and Aramaic (the common root of Hebrew and Arabic). These symbols achieve and depict a unification representing the common roots that bind all civilizations to the common threshold uniting humanity. The symbols frame verses from the Holy Koran on the same theme relating to each element respectively. The fountain appears as if it has broken out of the flagstone courtyard, with water flowing over the lip and the symbols back the lights into the fissure they emerged from. In the center of the dark water, flames arise through a volcanic rock island, illuminate the courtyard, bancos, and the animated faces of those surrounding the fountain.
Spectacular sunsets are visible from more than ten spots in the house. The famous New Mexico light washes the sky in incredible clarity and colors, framed by the mountains on the horizon. Scattered summer thunder storms in the distance provide a celebration of natural fireworks and in winter, a soft blanket of fresh snow blankets the surrounding landscape.
Amin elaborates: "One of my favorite times is my office mornings. Mount Atalaya behind the house throws a giant pointed shadow over the valley. At my desk I can see west to Arizona, the Sandia Mountains, Los Alamos mountains, the Rio Grande Valley and I can watch the shadow move in as the sun rises over the Sangre De Christo Mountains behind the house. It is a giant sun dial is both beautiful, relaxing and yet tracks the time for me.”
The location, winds, lightning and all other factors lend a unique vitality to the house, one can’t help but feel the positive energy that envelopes the house. The special location of the house—at the center of a steep rise—acts like a binding force,, an ascetic who balances and controls the inter-links of all his spiritual chakras.
A Unique Synthesis
Approaching the house and visiting the public areas, a visitor from the 1920s would likely not notice any changes. The house, however, did double in size and includes much that is new, from pool to decks, to the village, the private areas and a largely expanded modern kitchen. The new house reveres the revitalization of the original stone house of the 1920s with the original stones quarried from the site itself, representing a unique synthesis of the house and its surrounds.
The revitalization further celebrates this theme of synthesis by using the original stone quarry site of the house as the swimming pool. Impressive in size, functional in shape (a full regulation size for the serious lap swimmer), the pool is part of the family fun area and a great place to hang out. The design shares the architectural language of the house, with iron ties for the masses and a symbolic crack that starts in the village and is mirrored through out the ceiling, becoming guides for a backstroke swimmer and ending at both ends of the pool at the point for the flip turn.
By the front entrance, behind rock columns and archest that frame the front door, you'll find a magnificent mosaic, on the landing. The culturally imbibed mosaic has a number of panels, each depicting the architecture of a city from the Holy Land. It is a reproduction of the mosaic floor of the oldest church in Christendom; that of Mont Nebo in present-day Jordan. This spot on earth is of overwhelming power, overlooking Jericho, the Jordan river, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Herrod’s Castle, the baptism Site of Christ and the promised land beyond. This was Amin’s favorite spot for several reasons: its beauty, history and, most significantly, due to his active involvement in the restoration of the floor, along with the Vatican.
This was primarily achieved by the establishment of a school devoted to traditional mosaic materials and designs that encouraged and guided artisans as they restored the floor from designs found at invaluable archaeological sites. The school produced the reproduction to fit the entrance area as a gift to bless the hom, receiving guests and reflecting the architecture of this house through the windows of eight different architectures of the Holy Land.
Honoring the Holy Land
The most significant and striking element lies near the front entry, behind rock columns and arches that frame the front door. It's on the landing, a magnificent, culturally imbibed mosaic with numerous panels, each depicting the architecture of a city from the Holy Land. It is a reproduction of the mosaic floor of the oldest church in Christendom; that of Mont Nebo in present day Jordan. This spot on earth is of overwhelming power, overlooking Jericho, the Jordan river, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Herrod’s Castle, the baptism Site of Christ and the promised land beyond.
This was Amin’s favorite spot for several reasons: because of its beauty, history and, most significantly, because of his active involvement in the restoration of the floor, along with aiding the Vatican in establishing a school devoted to traditional mosaic materials and designs. The school encouraged and guided artisans in restoring the floor from records found at invaluable archaeological sites. The school produced the reproduction to fit the entrance area as a gift to bless the home, receiving guests and reflecting the house's architecture through the windows of eight different architectures of the Holy Land.
Other connections or ties of unity are cultural and symbolic. For example, the architect’s masterful use of masses and voids in the new house has unified the entire structure with a flow and a unity of language despite a completely complimentary use of materials.
Tying the Old With the New
This honored old house is not only unique in Santa Fe, it's of significant historical importance. Many of its masses are separated by symbolic cracks and chasms that mirror the surrounding arroyos and river valleys as well as the mountains and crags of the region.
The old and new are tied together by an architectural wall that runs north to south. Many of the masses are symbolically ‘tied’ by iron bands reminiscent of the ancient monuments of the Levant that are echoed in the fountains, doors and pool. This interaction between the architectural brilliance, the functional use of owners with a very long and active experience and the use of space that encourages warmth and family spirit has given this a home an extraordinary, understated grace.