Early last week the Santa Fe Indian School exhibited some bloody typical short-sightedness by announcing that the 45-year-old Paolo Soleri Amphitheater was to be demolished. This architectural landmark is not only a marvelous outdoor venue, but a groovy exemplification of Soleri’s synergistic design philosophy. Yesterday the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council and the All Indian Pueblo Council came down firmly on the side of the School, offering “blessings” for the demolition. Somehow, the Councils contend, the amphitheater is directly responsible for Native children going under-educated and the only solution is to destroy it before it can cause more harm.
Pardon me if I seem unconvinced. The School has exhibited a bad attitude about preservation in the past, having casually torn down historic buildings and old-growth trees without public notice or input. The School is an island of sovereign territory inside Santa Fe, so the usual requirements of notification and cooperation (conveniently) do not apply, but the attitude exhibited here is downright un-neighborly, even hostile. The short version could be: “Shut up, hippie.”
Maybe the pueblo leaders ought not to be quite so quick to bless destruction. Soleri himself nails the problem with a blistering quote:
“This American culture is bent on demolition in all fields. It is a deleterious way of making history and forfeiting memories, the very memories cutting the landscape of history for country in search of culture and civility.”
In Albuquerque, we only have to look to the wholesale destruction of many of the buildings in the downtown area, culminating in the ignominious razing of the Alvarado Hotel in 1970, which remained a vast parking lot until downtown redevelopment raised a sad simulacrum of the hotel in the same spot. If it all comes down to capitalism, to the pathetic fact that destroying and rebuilding yields more profit than preserving and appreciating, then we need some kind of cap-and-trade program to stop this gaming of the system, some kind of financial incentive to halt the business-as-usual of demolition. What demolition emphatically does not need is a “blessing.”
Unsurprisingly, a Save Our Soleri movement has sprung up with great ferocity, and if the Indian School has any neighborliness left in its sovereign bones, it will view these concerned citizens as potential partners who could raise money, awareness and public participation to correct whatever alleged negative impacts the amphitheater is having on Native education. To view them as enemies or as “hippies” who need to “shut up,” would be a colossal mistake.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.