Arts and Creativity Center Architectural Design

Project Summary

Designs for the Siler Yard Arts + Creativity Center were developed through a collaborative process in which the architects, planners, and developers for the project engaged with a large and diverse group of creative professionals to develop design principles, refine the building and site program, and evaluate the design as it developed. More than thirty local artists and actors, musicians and makers, poets and producers, dancers and designers, creators and craftspeople, all innovative thinkers, came together over a period of six months to discuss, debate, and make recommendations.

The big questions for the project are:

  1. What physical things and spatial qualities do you need to be creative?
  2. What are the aspects of the built environment that inspire creativity?
  3. How can arts and creativity be embedded into the DNA of the project?

Design Principles for the Project:

  1. Configuration of the development must provide for resident needs while supporting the neighborhood and larger needs of Santa Fe.
  2. Amenities will be carefully programmed to complement and not compete with existing resources in the neighborhood.
  3. The development will be designed to encourage pedestrian and bicycle connectivity while allowing for the automobile to have close access to the units for loading.
  4. Shared and private outdoor space are equally important.
  5. Landscape design will restore and celebrate the historic acequia running through the project and will provide opportunities for individual and collective gardening.
  6. Open space will provide entrepreneurial opportunities for the residents.
  7. The walls of the buildings will provide a blank canvas for rotating murals, new media/projections, and public engagement art. These public walls will provide the image of a dynamic and ever changing creative community and a means for young artists to gain visibility.
  8. Sustainable design and water efficiency will be implemented with the goal of lowering utility costs.
  9. Units will be raw, constructed of durable materials, and be capable of temporary customization by the residents.
  10. Live/work units shall be as flexible as possible to support the variety of creative practice.
  11. The aesthetic of the development will celebrate the industrial qualities of the neighborhood and demonstrate that this is a place of making.

The result of this process will be a new hub of live/work housing and shared community resources that supports and enhances the creative sector in Santa Fe.  


Program for Development

Current plans call for 60 units of housing, 51 of which will be very affordable serving incomes from 30-60% of the area median income, with the remaining nine serving market-rate households. Resident amenities include a large meeting room/gallery/collaborative work space, a laundry room, and a leasing office. The development is being designed with best practices of sustainable design and will be certified under the Enterprise Green Communities (EGC) program. Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) are being sought to fund the residential component of the project. The site will include bicycle trails that will connect to the Santa Fe Bikeway trail network, playgrounds for children, and open areas for on-site festivals and events celebrating the talents and energy of the residents.

The project is subject to many rules and requirements. LIHTC funding, EGC sustainability criteria, and Santa Fe zoning each bring mandatory regulations. The project embraces these challenges and seeks to utilize them to transform the space program into a unique place in Santa Fe.

Approximately ten percent of the five-acre site will be developed separately as a shared resource building, co-developed with MAKE Santa Fe, a 501(c)3 non-profit community workspace, currently located in the Siler neighborhood. This 14,000 square-foot facility will include prototyping workshops with advanced fabrication tools, co-working office space, classrooms, event space, and micro-retail shops.  It will be a hive of activity, innovation, and workforce training for the creative professionals who fuel the economy of Santa Fe.




Neighborhood Context

The five-acre site, located on the west side of Siler Road, half-way between Agua Fria Street and Cerrillos Road, is being donated to the project by the City of Santa Fe. Currently used as a portion of the city’s work yards, the Siler Yard project will continue the growing economic development of this area of town, while preserving the culture, affordability and the industrial nature of the neighborhood.  This is a place where things are made, a place not typically seen as representing the character of Santa Fe, yet it is just as vital to the future of our town.

Santa Fe is likely the highest need urban rental market area in the state. According to CBRE’s September 2016 market analysis the occupancy rate for multi-family housing in Santa Fe is 97.8%, the highest level ever recorded in their history of tracking market conditions in the city. Santa Fe has also experienced two years of double digit rent increases and a staggering year-on-year rent increase of 12.83% between September 2015 and September 2016. According to the City’s housing needs assessment, 3,000 households earning below $25,000 a year that cannot find affordable apartments and are cost burdened. The production of very affordable rental housing targeting households at or below 30% of the area median income is the highest priority goal of the city affordable housing plan.

The unique affordable live/work rental program is unlike any other affordable rental housing currently available in the greater Santa Fe area. With work spaces limited to a few distinct areas in town, rental work is space is both expensive and rare. Add to this development pressures in the Siler area that are resulting from this once fringe area now existing in the middle of the city, that make the creation and preservation of affordable work spaces more important than ever.

Site Plan

The buildings are configured to create open spaces that knit the community together.  A centralized open spine connects the historic acequia on the northern edge of the property to the triangular plaza that features playgrounds and event space. Situated along the spine are the collaborative work space/meeting room and the laundry. The residential buildings are aligned within fifteen degrees of east-west to maximize the benefits of solar exposure.  Parking is convenient and distributed throughout the site, while the landscape will encourage pedestrian connectivity and community.

Unit Design

Units are designed to provide the largest most flexible studio space, with exterior access on both north and south ends.  Designed to enable live/work, the units separate bedrooms and bathrooms into more private zones, while kitchens are left open within the studios. Two and three-bedroom units feature high ceilings in the studios, sloping from nine to twelve feet, providing large north-facing windows to maximize natural light. Front entrances are double doors (6’ wide x 8’ tall) for greater convenience in bring large supplies and works into and out of the homes. Covered outdoor work areas are provided at all units, along with exterior bulk storage. Other features important to creatives include large basin sinks and expansive blank walls with plywood. One and two-bedroom plans are nested with one another to maximize space afforded to the studios and minimize building length.



Building Design

The eight residential buildings are two or three stories, and contain a range of bedroom configurations. The two and-three bedroom units are all two-stories tall, and are typically situated above the one-bedroom units.  Two and three-bedroom units include 1.75 bathrooms (one bathroom with tub and one bathroom with shower). Building massing combines corrugated metal siding and sloped roofs, harmonious with the neighborhood’s industrial aesthetic, with stucco and flat roofs, more associated with Santa Fe. Stucco surfaces, particularly the end walls that are envisioned as blank canvases for the creative residents to showcase their work.

Building Type A includes four one-bedroom units at grade, with four two-story two-bedroom units above.  An exterior walkway connects the 2nd floor unit entries and provides a covered work area for the lower units.

Building Type B includes eight one-bedroom units, six of which are at grade, with four two-story two-bedroom units above.  An exterior walkway connects the 2nd floor unit entries and provides a covered work area for the lower units.

Building Type C includes two two-story two-bedroom units at grade, with four stacked one-bedrooms units on the corners.

Building Type D includes six two-story three-bedroom units at grade. These units are more geared towards families and are close to the central playground.

 “For over a thousand years, this region has been home to a continuum of creativity. For the vast majority of this time, affordable housing was part of the natural equilibrium of life. Homes were pulled up out of the earth – made and changed to suit evolving needs and technologies. Today, Santa Fe continues as a cultural crossroads and a hub of making, with the Siler Road area as its epicenter, yet a dramatic and well-documented housing shortage threatens the ability for artists and creative professionals to remain in this beautiful place. Affordable housing in Santa Fe has never been more important. This project will help to stem the crisis by boldly declaring that the creative community is essential to our collective future.”
– Shawn Evans, Principal, Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, lead designers of the Siler Yard project