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U.S. Statehood Architecture, 1945-present
U.S. Statehood Architecture, 1945 to present

After the war, driven by the city’s vigorous growth, commercial building began again, but now one aim was to accommodate the automobile. Route 66 was busy, and motels and diners, many in the period’s Deco style, popped up along Fourth and Bridge streets, the early alignment of Route 66, and then Central.

In 1949 R.B. Waggoman completed the Nob Hill Business Center, which was the city’s first shopping center.

Old Town, over its long life, had remained a quiet and separate village of adobe and Victorian homes. It wasn’t incorporated into Albuquerque until 1949. At that time it was becoming a tourist magnet. To meet visitors’ expectations of an old adobe village, merchants altered facades, added second stories, and built new buildings. Victorian buildings disappeared behind pueblo facades.

The rest of Albuquerque strived for modernity. That’s why boosters didn’t shed a tear in 1953 when the handsome, brownstone Albuquerque Commercial Club, the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, was razed to build the 13-story Simms Building. It then became the city’s tallest skyscraper and the first in the modern International style of architecture, which valued simplicity over ornamentation. This style would be replicated in hundreds of buildings in the 1950s and 1960s. However, in a salute to the old, Simms builders incorporated one wall of the old club. The architect was Max Flatow.

In 1959 the wonderful old Pueblo style Wright’s Trading Post was leveled to build the Bank of New Mexico Building. In quick succession more tall buildings joined the city’s growing skyline, each vying to be tallest. At San Mateo and Central the 17-story First National Bank Building became the city’s tallest in 1963. In 1966 the 18-story National Building (now the Compass Bank Building), at Fifth and Marquette became the tallest. In the same period, the Bank Securities Building at Lomas and Second (now the Wells Fargo Building) and the 13-story federal building were also built.

At the same time, shopping centers exploded in Albuquerque. It was convenient to the new neighborhoods growing quickly in outlying areas, but it was the beginning of the end for downtown retail.

In 1961, Winrock Shopping Center opened. UNM president Tom Popejoy had convinced financier Winthrop Rockefeller to lease university property in the Northeast Heights. Rockefeller called his project the first “regional shopping center.” That year Dale Bellamah built the Northdale Shopping Center in the North Valley and the Eastdale Shopping Center in the Northeast Heights, and Elmer Sproul built Indian Plaza at Indian School and Carlisle. Coronado Shopping Center followed in 1965.

By the early 1960s, the old airport terminal building was too small, so the city built a new one, which opened in 1963 and has since been expanded and upgraded several times. The Albuquerque International Sunport evokes New Mexico by the building design, decorative elements, and the beautiful artwork collection. This commitment to a Southwestern design provides a sense of identity to a commercial and institutional space that visitors admire and that locals appreciate returning to after their journeys.

In 1966 UNM built University Arena, better known as The Pit, with a seating capacity of 15,000 fans. In 1975 the university added a mezzanine, expanding space for 18,000. Known for its efficient use of space and design, which makes the crowd a part of the event, it’s one of the top 25 sports venues in the country. 

This was a period of firsts, as modern architecture made its mark. Unfortunately, it also saw the wrecking ball that characterized Urban Renewal. The 1970s opened with the demolition of the Alvarado Hotel.

New construction continued: The Convention Center in 1972, the airport terminal addition in 1973, Civic Plaza in 1974, and the Albuquerque Public Library in 1975. But the loss of the Alvarado and other city landmarks produced enough public alarm and, possibly, guilt to launch a spate of restorations.

In the 1980s more buildings joined the downtown skyline: The First Plaza complex on Second St., PNM’s Alvarado Square, the 11-story city-county building, the 15-story Marquette Building, and the Sunwest Bank Building. Construction began in January 1988 on Albuquerque Plaza, a 22- story office tower and neighboring 20-story Hyatt Regency Hotel. The office tower is now the tallest building in New Mexico.

In the cultural arena, the last ten years have seen the creation of the Albuquerque Biopark and Aquarium, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Anderson-Abruzzo Balloon Museum, and Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum. The city completed major expansions and renovations of Tingley Beach, the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, the Atomic Museum, and the baseball stadium.

The architectural community is well represented with a thriving American Institute of Architects chapter, The Albuquerque Conservation Association (TACA) and the New Mexico Architectural Foundation.

Albuquerque also has the distinction of being home to such internationally renowned architects as Bart Prince and Antoine Predock.


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