Silver Spiral: Affordable Green Housing Downtown Gets Art

Moving to Albuquerque after seventeen years spent haunting the villages outside city limits was a big deal. I considered it at least "noteworthy." The building I selected to move to, however, actually was "newsworthy." The new Platinum Leed Certified Affordable Housing complex, Silver Gardens, which is right smack downtown by the train depot (and movie theater), celebrated it's grand opening with a ribbon cutting on Tuesday. Consequently, I got to mark a major change in my own private lifestyle alongside the Mayor, Senator Ortiz Y Pino, Theresa Bell from Romero Rose, Mark Allison from Supportive Housing Coalition, City Councilor Isaac Benton and and many more.

It was a tremendous event. Yummy food, great speakers. Everyone in the audience came away with both a strong awareness of all the people who had worked very hard to bring the project to fruition and simultaneously the significance of green and affordable transit-based housing nationally. Silver Gardens matters. As someone benefiting from the discounted rents for the lower income bracket of the "mixed-income" housing, I felt gratitude to all these advocates who had worked to make top-notch homes possible in an integrated economic setting (and a building that would also easily accommodate disabilities). And as a creative person, I also felt gratitude to the artist who'd created sculptural work in the courtyard of the apartment complex. Admittedly, as soon as they said, Nocona Burgess was also present at the ribbon cutting, I started craning my neck, "Where? Where is he?" "Striped shirt and white shorts," my mom said and pointed.

A beautiful apartment is one thing; a beautiful green apartment another. No hour-long-each-way commuting? OMG. Add on affordable, and I grin solidly ear-to-ear and shake my head with the sheer joy of this change. But top it off with art, and I get downright mushy. I mean look at this view I have from my third floor balcony. Talk about a "Welcome Home!" As a creature of symbol, a lover of archetype, I couldn't be happier to see a spiral from my balcony and living room window. Even though I've officially "returned" to Albuquerque after a 17-year borderland hiatus, the truth is that "full circle" doesn't do justice to the journey that's ensued in the almost two decades. A spiral comes closer to representing the way the past and the future connect and I manage to keep growing. My iconography is personal, my own spiritual and even psychological bias, but Comanche Artist Nocona Burgess's work is more transcendent.

Based on Chaco culture sundial, the stacked stone leads down a slope to the center of the spiral, (reminiscent of the descent into a kiva), and then a tall pole, (common iconography to tribes from Alaska to Taos and Mexico), stands in the center. Nocona says, "What [the pole] means to me is a connection from the earth to the sky." Shadows mark the changes of sunlight throughout the year and the seasons. He points out that the imagery is also connected to petroglyph designs from the region and native cultures.

Despite all the layers of meaning, this isn't work that "needs" to be interpreted. It's work that "wants" to be experienced, work that lends itself to curiosity and contemplation. Nocona said, "The whole idea was to be interactive and also lend itself to curiosity. I think all artists just do what they do and try to connect with people on some unspoken level. I'm not worried if people get it or not, but hope that they at least think about it from time to time."

When I asked Nocona how it felt to create art for a "green" and "affordable" building downtown Albuquerque, he said, "I thought the whole idea was great for people. We like the idea of downtown living and going green is always a plus. Us Natives have been telling them to be green for 500 years now hahaha."

So tenants are connected to their homes--and because the building is green and efficient, our homes are connected to a care for the environment. Even our mobility, whether walking the spiral or a catching a bus down the street has been given thoughtful consideration. The building is even non-smoking, I add, surprisingly content to be sucking a nicotine lozenge. There's even a community garden plot in the courtyard, and lots of fine landscaping. For me the spiral sculpture just tied all the elements of care together. It's the kind of thoughtfulness that will be appreciated by many generations that will share the building. From my balcony, I actually was able to catch of quick shot of Nocona walking the center of the spiral with his child. He's given us the kind of "abstract landscape" that can make a rural-girl adjust to city-life without missing a beat. It was nice that he was able to come in from Cochiti Lake with his wife Danielle and son Quahada to help us celebrate.

*Banner image is a detail from was from The Cochiti Dragonflies, part of a series of paintings called Abstract Landscapes by Nocona J. Burgess of Cochiti Lake, NM. For more information about his art, see his website.

**For more information on Silver Gardens (which is still renting), stop by the office at 100 Silver SW or click here for details. I suspect if you ask, Evelyn would even let you check out the courtyard and walk the spiral...

***One of these balconies is mine :)

Views: 196

Comment by mombat on May 21, 2010 at 10:02am
Lisa, I'm glad you are in this development. I went to the ribbon cutting too. I was impressed by how nice the courtyard feels. I expect that it will get all kinds of use. I met a couple and their puppy who had just moved in and they were enjoying the place too.
I though that the entryway and common areas seemed well designed. I hope it works out to be one of those places that people really like and that it ages well.
And I agree that the food was great.
Comment by lisa gill on May 21, 2010 at 10:05am
Thanks Mombat. I'm really loving it... even (or especially) churchbells and trainwhistles!!!
Comment by Richard Read Oyama on May 21, 2010 at 10:17am
Oh Lisa, I'm so incredibly happy for you, and your spiralling home. I can't wait to visit with bagsfull of housewarming groceries. See you in a ready-to-meditate mood. . .
Comment by lisa gill on May 21, 2010 at 10:22am
Thanks Richard, you and Greta are so kind... after our morning "sit", we'll have to do the walking meditation in the courtyard...
Comment by JeSais on May 21, 2010 at 10:54am
so glad you are downtown.... and perhaps, I WILL see you now that you graduated! sounds like a cool building too. and amazing art.
Comment by cc on May 21, 2010 at 11:39am
So glad to hear this, Lisa! Freedom from car-muting must feel so free!
Mazel tov!
Comment by Laura Matter on May 21, 2010 at 1:18pm
I have home envy, Lisa! Looks and sounds like an amazing place, and I'm happy and proud to live in a city where these kind of things happen. Thanks for the post.
Comment by lisa gill on May 21, 2010 at 11:17pm
Thanks all. The new place is great---downsizing and sorting at the old place is more complicated :) It's amazing what you accrue when you don't move for almost a decade and have more space than you need...
Comment by Richard Garriott-Stejskal on May 21, 2010 at 11:35pm
Another nice piece Lisa. It's going to be fun having you in the downtown. Your vision will enrich all of ours.
Comment by Phil_0 on May 22, 2010 at 8:11pm
Thanks for the piece, Lisa. With all the sparring around the arena proposal going on elsewhere on the site, it's nice to read about real revitalization and community-building downtown.


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