A new color is on the rise in the Baca District of the Santa Fe Railyard. It’s not the stucco brown of the downtown historic district. It’s not the baby blue of the old Captain Marble building. It’s not the reds of the Raven and La Puerta buildings, nor is it the brown and black of the Trailhead Building, which was recently adapted by the husband-wife team of Andres Paglayan and Solange Serquis from the historic Monte Vista Fuel & Feed warehouse.
It is metallic silver. With a spate of new construction during the past eight years or so, the Baca District has become a gallery of galvanized-steel buildings in shapes that can verge on the experimental.
Exceptional examples include the Molecule design showroom, fashioned by Adriana Siso from 11 international shipping containers. There is also Jonah Stanford’s Needbased Inc. office and the Ricardo Mazal studio next door. The newest gleaming entry is the Greathouse Railyard Lofts, under construction at 930 Shoofly Street by Stephanie Sandston.
Sandston’s project will include two 1,100-square-foot loft units, a casita guest studio, and her own 1,800-square-foot home, which will resemble the Quonset hut aesthetic of her other buildings, but with a courtyard. Prices for the lofts aren’t yet set.
“I hope it will all be finished this fall,” said Sandston, who isn’t an architect but has extensive experience in the design world. “Then my friend, Michael Golino, is building right next door and that’s going to be beautiful, too.”
How did the Railyard district get its distinctive look? Rather than jumping on the Spanish-Pueblo Revival bandwagon, the Railyard harks back to the warehouses of the railroading days.
The rounded steel Greathouse roofs are anchored by poured-concrete stem walls. They’re reminiscent of a type of corrugated-metal building that became popular during World War II for its simplicity and quick erection time. “My mom is from a big ranching family in Utah, and there were Quonset huts on the ranch and I always loved them,” Sandston said. “I have been playing with ways to deconstruct a Quonset. What I did here, you get the curved steel but you get all the control of a modern building with the flat sides.”
As opposed to the traditional prefab buildings, in which the curved metal runs right down to the ground, her innovative “partial Quonset” incorporates flat-wall elements. In another departure from the historic steel huts, she designed her loft units with large glass doors and windows to provide plenty of cloud views and energy-efficient daylighting.
The warehouse aesthetic of the Santa Fe Railyard appeals to Sandston. “I love it. It’s the opportunity for an ode to the rural industrial vernacular, and to modernism.”
She grew up in Los Angeles and worked in the film business —in art direction, production design, and set design — for 20 years. Before moving to Santa Fe, she lived in Montana for 14 years, where she developed a compound of metal buildings and small houses.
“My forte is taking something very simple and elevating it and trying to find the right light and find elegance in the shape beyond what its use was. These shapes are dramatic at first, but pretty soon, when it’s done, you’ll walk in and it will be quietly elevating.”
Inside, the clean, cool ambience of the modern design is offset by the ceiling, a grand curve of finish-grade plywood that is designed to bring warmth to the room. The living room/work space and the bedroom are on the ground floor, and the upstairs holds the kitchen and a loft space.
“Stephanie is a great designer,” Golino said about his future neighbor. “I worked on her project, which is what led me to my project.”
He’s at work on a mixed-use project at 934 Shoofly. “We’ve had some weather delays, but we’re moving along, beetling along,” he said in December. “We have to get the slabs in, then we can finish the masonry walls, and it will all go together quickly.”
The first phase is three detached, flat-roofed residential buildings. When those are finished, he will build a larger, barn-like structure with a gable roof. This will offer two upstairs apartments and a pair of ground-level commercial spaces.
Two other projects are now in the works in the Baca District. Behind Trailhead, architect Devendra Narayan Contractor, who designed the Railyard Galleries, LewAllen Contemporary, and other projects in the Railyard, plans a building with retail/commercial space on the ground floor and two 1,700-square-foot residential units above. The jazzy “Shoofly Pie” building will be grey corrugated metal below and smooth white stucco above. And now that the Trailhead Building is full and vibrant with Opuntia Café, Jennifer Ashton’s interior-design studio, and an assortment of offices, Paglayan plans to build some residences on property to the southeast. “It will be four to six units, nicely designed and a mix of live-work and studios for long-term rentals,” he said.
For the project he’s calling Trailhead Terraces, he wants to incorporate two smaller structures that remain from the old Monte Vista business — a small adobe building and a funky old metal building — similar to what he did with the Opuntia building, preserving the older materials and holding them up with new materials. Architect Tom Easterson-Bond created the master plan for the Trailhead Building and the plan for the Terraces project is by WAMO Design. Paglayan said he hopes to start construction in late March. “If we finalize the latest leases with Andres, we will only have one parcel available in the Baca Street area,” said Richard Czoski, director of the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation. A development proposal for that site, located at the corner of Shoofly and Flagman Way, will be considered by the SFRCC Board Leasing Committee in late January.
The new tunnel under St. Francis Drive provides an easy route between the two sections of the Railyard. “You can ride your bike 10 minutes from the Baca District to the main part of the Railyard and go to a movie or the bank or REI,” Czoski said.
Designer Golino sees the district as up and coming. “That little area of the Railyard is really happening. I go to Opuntia and it’s so crowded now. This is such a great thing.” ◀