Offbeat New Mexico
Fringy, countercultural, freakish, or just plain quirky — whatever you want to call the offbeat side of northern New Mexico, there sure is a lot of it. In places such as Madrid, a ghost town made good, the do-what-you-like spirit has taken over an entire community in the past few decades, inspiring art galleries and assorted odd projects such as the Nude Geezers fund-raising calendar — no wonder the locals call themselves “Madroids.”
Farther north, outside of Taos, a similar independent ethos drives the Greater World Earthship Community, where all the houses function off the power grid. But what’s most remarkable about these homes is their curvy design, with walls built into hills, around glass bottles, and into whimsical waves. More distinctive architecture can be seen at Dar Al Islam, a retreat partially built by an Egyptian master of earthen architecture — his adobe work looks both at home and exotic in the hills near Abiquiu.
Albuquerque contributes to bizarre architecture too, with the excellent “pueblo deco” of the KiMo Theater (go inside to see the Southwest theme taken to its logical extreme) and the more contemporary Bart Prince House, the work of a brilliant local architect whose home and studio resembles a spaceship.
Speaking of spaceships, you could probably build your own with bits collected from The Black Hole, a salvage yard in Los Alamos that stocks used lab equipment and office supplies, as well as a heavy dose of Cold War paranoia. You can have a similar time-warp experience in Mary’s Bar in Cerrillos, where it seems as if the Wild West never faded, or at Tinkertown Museum, outside Albuquerque, a folk-art project that presents old-time whittling as a source of entertainment.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition