23 Jul Saguaro National Park Final Presentation
This past week was a capstone to all the work we have accomplished in the span of this Barrio Viejo National Historic Landmark Project. We organized a thank you event to extend our gratitude to the crowd-sourced project volunteers at the downtown Tucson Hotel Congress. It was a really special event, and a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge our appreciation for them while discussing the project and their ideas from their experience thus far. We were fortunate to also host Los Descendientes del Presidio de Tucson non-profit group, which is comprised of the descendants of the original 1776 San Agustin de Tucson Presidio and Tucson history fans. We updated this group on our progress and also invited those interested to volunteer for the work ahead. Another intention for the mixer was as our farewell to Magda, the other Next Gen Intern working on this project who is headed to Mexico for research. There was also a guest of honor in our midst, Alba Bustamante Torres (Tucson Woman of the Year in 1975), who was an instrumental community leader who helped save the traditional plaza and heart of Tucson, La Placita de Mesilla, during the scourge of the 1960s urban renewal movement. I had the opportunity to give my final project and internship presentation at the Visitor Center of Saguaro National Park East, which was attended by park staff, park visitors, and some of our volunteers. The formal presentation was preceded by a special park video relating the history of the Hispanic homesteaders who lived and worked in the area which later became one of the National Park Service’s most emblematic park units. The presentation was comprised of an update on our progress, a historical background of Tucson, and an overview of the architecture style present in the historic old quarter. The presentation culminated with an appeal for the citizens and leaders of Tucson to recognize that it is frequently instructive to look to the past and tradition when looking to solve our contemporary issues. The Sonoran adobe row house tradition is the architecture most fitting and appropriate to our local geography and climate. It is, in essence, the prefect urban expression of the environment surrounding us in the Sonoran Desert. One of Tucson’s problematic urban issues is renegade sprawl – from some areas, it takes a half an hour to get to the other side of the city. The traditional row houses are thrifty in space in having separate dwellings connected via sharing walls, and thrifty in that building materials can be sourced from the surrounding desert. If we were to emulate this traditional Tucson style in new developments and construction we can start to combat the sprawl and destruction of natural habitat. The temperature and humidity conditioning properties provided in the thick thermal mass of the adobe walls help desert residents save on air conditioning bills and are the eco-friendly antithesis to the figurative mobile house ovens that are common here. I ultimately hope that the Sonoran adobe row house tradition will experience a revival through a renewed recognition in Arizona of its practicality. It is not a far stretch to hope for, considering the neighboring romanticized architectural traditions that experienced a renaissance in the early 20th century – the Mission Revival of California, and the Pueblo Revival from northern New Mexico which continues to be replicated to this day. I learned that my internship will be extended until the end of August, which I am very thankful for because I find this work very fulfilling. I sincerely enjoy helping promote historic preservation, and consider protecting the physical reminders that are left of our past as an exceptionally worthy cause.