Ashley M. Biggers, Freelance Journalist
Whether it’s revitalizing a downtown performing arts venue or designing a living room for musicians rehearsing, Craig Hoopes has brought a harmonious blending of modern and traditional to his scores of Santa Fe architectural projects. Steeped in the architectural legacy of Le Corbusier, he reconciled the pioneering Modernist’s severe principles with the soft, round, earth-centered habitations of New Mexico’s traditional dwellings. Over his 40-year career—25 of them in Santa Fe—Hoopes has established a new vernacular of contemporary Santa Fe style.
He did it by entering into a relationship with place, rather than holding the arid landscape at bay. His structures invite the outside in, blurring the boundaries between domicile and desert. Crisp interiors reflect the passage of time, collecting and casting light across space.
Starting at Cornell University, where he was steeped in what he calls the magic of Le Corbusier, Hoopes emerged in 1973 with an intricate knowledge of the Swiss-French architect’s point of view that would serve as a touchstone throughout his career. Yet he also continued to resist it as overly austere and sterile.
Admired and disparaged today in equal measure, the architect who called himself Le Corbusier (1887–1965) espoused a quintuplet of tenets, which he dubbed the Five Points of a New Architecture—such as perching buildings on ground-level support columns, creating open and free-flowing interiors, and incorporating rooftop gardens and grand windows that introduce natural light and exterior views. “I wanted to get away from that,” Hoopes says of the muse he calls “Corb.” But “I still liked some of the ideas, and there are some things I’ve been able to bring to New Mexico.”
In designing the gallery OTA Contemporary, Hoopes turned his attention to the needs of visual artists. Kiyomi Ota Baird, who had moved to Santa Fe from New Jersey, commissioned him to design both her gallery at Canyon Road and Paseo de Peralta, and a home studio addition. Since the gallery is in a historic district (although the building itself is only 20 years old), Hoopes’s firm worked closely with Baird to make it congruent with its surroundings while also feeling light, airy, and spacious, in accordance with her vision.
The result is “totally in keeping with the Santa Fe Canyon Road architectural feeling,” Baird says. “He immediately understood the traffic pattern to maximize the visual space, inside and out.” Upon entering the space, which opened in May, rooms to the right and left wend around art-viewing cul-de-sacs before siphoning viewers into a high-ceilinged room outffitted with projectors, which can be closed off for multimedia installations, one of Baird’s specialties. Two lofty glass doors rim a final room, providing views and access to the courtyard. “It’s good to hold on to values and history,” Baird says, “but you need to keep alive the human spirit of continuing to grow and evolve.