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School Design Preserves a Piece of Heritage for NMSD Historic Campus

New Mexico School for the Deaf building entrance

Posted by Julie Walleisa

Schools often need to make tough decisions about demolishing buildings that no longer meet their needs, but occasionally a design solution can help make the most of a difficult situation.

When New Mexico School for the Deaf decided to demolish a 1937 Spanish Pueblo Revival building in order to consolidate space and reduce campus square footage, staff and alumni were saddened at the loss of a building that had served generations of students as the campus infirmary/health center.

In order to preserve this legacy, D/P/S proposed saving a portion of the main entry façade and integrating it into the campus’s new site design.

Spanish Pueblo Revival Building Entrance (left); Beds in old Health Center (right)
1937 Health Center Building.

This was a challenging undertaking due to the Health Center’s relatively fragile masonry construction, which included a mixture of concrete, brick, and hollow clay tile.

Through careful controlled demolition, the main entry façade remained standing while the rest of the building was demolished. The remaining portion was stabilized by adding buttresses and benches to the rear of the wall, and covering the whole wall with a layer of concrete and new stucco.

Collage of wall restoration
Construction photos of careful demolition of the Health Center Building and preservation of the old entry.

The site design took advantage of this new attraction by linking the new open portal to a walking path and outdoor classroom gathering area within a new greenspace that was created by the demolition of two buildings.

The original building plaque and a new interpretive plaque explaining the history of the health center were hung flanking the original building entry.

This preserved piece of campus history has been used as the centerpiece of a campus ribbon-cutting ceremony and serves as a new landmark and meeting point within NMSD’s beautiful historic campus.

Preserved building entry wall (top left); Site photo of courtyard and preserved wall (bottom left); Faculty and students celebrate ribbon-cutting
Ribbon-cutting and finished site improvements.

Julie Walleisa is an Accredited Learning Environment Planner and architect who specializes in early childhood, K-12, and higher education design. She has completed multiple campus masterplans and a range of demolition, renovation, addition, and new construction projects for historic campuses that balance educational needs with historic regulations and budget constraints. Julie has a Master of Architecture degree from Harvard University and is a Principal at Dekker/Perich/Sabatini.