Albuquerque designates Main Library building as city landmark

Local News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The City of Albuquerque is working to preserve a downtown building from an era that isn’t often praised for its architecture.

Albuquerque’s Landmarks & Urban Conservation Commission voted Tuesday to approve the nomination of “landmark status” for the 45-year old Main Library building at Fifth Street and Copper Avenue.

The “landmark” designation for the library ensures that the city must retain the original look and features of the interior and exterior of the building, which opened in 1975.

“To me, this is the most important designation to have it on city landmarks,” said Dean Smith, director of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Public Library system.

The hard-angled, brick exterior building is often considered by some to be one of the best examples of mid-70’s architecture and an example of “brutalist” building style. Typical brutalist buildings are known for an extensive use of concrete, minimal or small windows, and an overall blocky shape.

“Many describe the building as a brutalist building, I agree with others that just think of it as a modern building,” Smith said.

Smith says that’s because of some of the differentiating features the building has, including a warmer, tan brick exterior instead of concrete, an extensive use of larger windows on the sides of the building, and a cantilevered second floor.

Most important Smith says, the building still works as a library for the city.

“Even 45 years after its built, it still functions well as a public library,” Smith said.

While commissioners unanimously voted to approve the landmark designation at Wednesday’s meeting of the Landmarks Commission, some still voiced opinions of the building’s aesthetic.

“I don’t consider it a beautiful piece of architecture,” said Rosie Dudley, a member of the Landmarks Commission.

“While it does not please me, (it) is definitely representation of what people were thinking in the ’70s,” said Lauren Austin, another member of the Landmarks Commissioner.

Despite the mixed opinions about the Main Library building’s look, Smith believes it’s important to protect the building as a piece of Albuquerque history that still works well today.

“When you get to know the building and realize how well the building functions, you really appreciate the building and the thought that was put in it,” Smith said.

The Main Library building joins a list of more than 20 other designated “landmarks on the City of Albuquerque’s registry. Built in 1975, the building is also now the youngest on the list, with the next youngest landmark having been built in the 1940s.

The same Main Library building is also now listed on state and federal registries for historic places.

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