Let There Be Light in New Mexican Mountains

PULLMAN, Wash. — Seven Washington State University architecture students spent four days in November in the snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico living in a yurt lighted by kerosene lamps and heated by wood fires, and enjoying vegetarian cuisine and spring water.
As representatives of the WSU interdisciplinary architecture and landscape design class (Arch 301 and LA362), the students scoped out the 110-acre site 20 miles north of Taos in order to help their teams provide a restoration plan for the Lama Foundation Center, destroyed May 5, 1996 by wild-fire.
Flora is beginning to regenerate at the site and new wood stock and grasses have been planted. The three remaining buildings and other makeshift structures now sit amid Ponderosa pine and Rocky Mountain juniper seedlings on a lookout over the Rio Grande gorge, mesa and mountains. In summers, the retreat site attracts a larger population and requires large-scale gardening and more accommodations.
The Lama Foundation Spiritual Community is a 30-year-old collective, located at 8,600 feet in northern New Mexico, dedicated to the awakening of consciousness, diverse spiritual practices, service and stewardship of the land. It is considered a “living light and home for the heart.” Lama Foundation became widely known in 1970 after producing the book “Be Here Now” in collaboration with Ram Dass.
Now back in Pullman, student teams are at the drawing board and will present a variety of plans Dec. 17. They will incorporate such Lama goals as mountain-based sustainable systems; simple, healthy and basic living; and sacred and educational lifestyle, group and service orientation. They also provide alternative solutions to minimize energy needs and waste production, keep harmony with the natural elements, adapt for seasonal needs, and spatially organize the residences, campsites, office, flag studio, kitchen, washhouses, gardens, bathroom facilities, solar system, parking and access road.
Because of November’s heavy snow and cold, the WSU students stayed longer than planned and were able to experience community life and practices, says Katherine Keane, assistant professor of architecture. “The on-site visit — which came about by student request — added a dimension that magnified the learning immensely.” Third-year architecture students David Alt, Vancouver; Hector Lo, Scott Manning, Terina Owen and Jeremiah Powers, Richland; Vance Rupert and Lindsay Trabun accompanied Keane. Landscape Architecture professor Janet Silbernagel visited there in August.
“The project became real after our visit,” says Alt. “Once we saw their harmony and happiness, and understood the Lama’s spiritual quest, we could design for real people and concepts.”
“The experience helped me learn to work in groups and gave us contact with real clients for the first time,” said Powers. And the topography maps and climate materials didn’t give as accurate a picture as being there, he added.
Other architecture students in the class are Bryce Bishop, Deanne Eggebraaten, Cheryl Erickson, Marvin Fucal, Michael Kelly, Mwangi Kimani, Amal Kissoondyal, Jae-Hoon Na, Nik Sernande and Mark Wass. Landscape architecture students are Craig Andersen, Paige Beckett, Curt Benson, Scott Brantley, Chris Cain, Kellye Cole, Amanda Gibson, Piper Hale, Mike Juneau, Nathan Larsen, Alan McWain, Stephanie Mildon, Rachelle Nemitz, Jena Ponti, Nick Rampp, Eric Seo, Clayton Varick and Tina Vincent.