History of the Southwestern Style

Architecture and Design Synonymous with Santa Fe


Long before the first Europeans arrived in North America, the inhabitants of the Southwest built houses made of adobe, a sun-dried clay brick, and exposed wooden ceiling beams. Adobe homes were being built by the Pueblo Indians as long as 1,000 years ago.

Spanish Exploration

Spanish exploration of the deserts of the Southwestern United States began in the 1540’s, when conquistadors such as Francisco Vásquez de Coronado crossed this region in search of the mythical “cities of gold.” Instead, they found “gold” of another kind – the ancient culture and architecture of the Pueblo people. These indigenous people built dwellings that were modest and unadorned, cubic in form and densely situated, though they remained cool in the blazing hot temperatures. In 1609, the Spanish conquered these natives and made Pueblo de Santa Fe the administrative capital of the Santa Fe de Nuevo México Province. The Palace of the Governors was built between 1610 and 1614, mixing Pueblo Indian and Spanish influences.

Spanish Arrival

When the Spanish arrived in the New World, they began establishing missions throughout the region. From 1769 to 1823, the Franciscans built twenty-one Missions in California. The Mission San Francisco de Asis in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, dates from the 1770’s. Centuries later, the Pueblo Revival Style developed in the region. The Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson, Arizona, features details from southern examples in New Spain.

By the turn of the 19th century, local influences were being reflected in Southwest architecture. In 1915, Sylvanus Morley defined a “Santa Fe” style of architecture originating in the Santa Fe, New Mexico region. This style incorporated simplicity of expression with the use of local materials, and became associated with New Mexico from the time it became a territory of the United States, in 1848, until about 1900.

Pueblo Revival Style

The Pueblo Revival style made its first appearance in New Mexico at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where it was used for a number of projects. The other stronghold of Pueblo style architecture is Santa Fe. Popularized in the 1920’s and 1930’s by a group of artists and architects, the “Pueblo movement” sought to establish a unique regional identity. In 1957, the Historical Zoning Ordinance was drafted by a committee led by John Gaw Meem. This ordinance mandated the use of the Pueblo style or Territorial Revival style on all new buildings in central Santa Fe, and it remains in effect today.

The Pueblo Revival style is a regional architectural style characteristic of the Southwestern United States. Drawing its inspiration from the dual influences of pueblo adobe structure and Spanish missions, the style is still a popular choice used for the construction of new buildings and houses. Whether you call it Pueblo Revival or Southwestern or Santa Fe, this unique style reflects a regional architecture design that is uniquely suited to the climate, cultural environment, and artistic sensibilities and talents of the people it represents.