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From Bauhaus to the Baca Railyard

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Mark Anderson, founder of dhouz Design Studio in the Baca Railyard, takes a photo during an Oct. 21 tour of the live-work and mixed-use spaces off Cerrillos Road. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Motorists buzzing down Cerrillos Road past Baca Street can be forgiven for thinking that the Baca Railyard is a strip mall with a few shops in it. What drivers are seeing is actually just the perimeter of an area emerging as a playground of sorts for international designers and architects. They’ve been drawn to the city-owned campus because of the opportunity to experiment with contemporary styles that aren’t permitted in Santa Fe’s historic district.

Among those who have been attracted to the 13-acre Baca Railyard is Mark Anderson, a California transplant whose design portfolio includes award-winning work for high-profile companies and institutions such as Apple Computer (as it was once known), IBM, furniture maker Herman Miller and Stanford University.

After toying with quasi-retirement in the Napa Valley for a few years, Anderson, 74, has decided to get back in the design game in Santa Fe.

He and his wife Nancy are living in Quail Run, but he has staked out a 2,600-square-foot space in a building known as Shoofly Pie for his next venture, dhouz Design Studio.

Dhouz – a riff on the Bauhaus movement founded by Walter Gropius during Germany’s early 20th-century Weimar Republic – has set its sights high. Anderson wants to create a retail store for upscale home furnishings that also serves as a fulcrum for community-building and storytelling.

Mark Anderson’s multi-shaped wall construction using real elements from nature called “Stratascape.” (Courtesy of Mark Anderson)

The sophisticated marketing materials for dhouz are literally all over the map. They reference Anderson’s childhood in Minnesota, home of famous (and post #metoo, some would argue infamous) storyteller and radio host Garrison Keillor; the California movement to annex the outdoors as living space; and the belief advocated by the Shaker movement that “nothing should be made unless it is both necessary and useful … and if it is, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful.”

In addition to offering (“selling” seems a crass term in this rarefied environment) his own quirky, beautiful designs under the label Mark’s Objects, dhouz will carry heated outdoor furniture from Galatner & Jones, contemporary durable goods from Weltevree and “tools for togetherness” (aka outdoor furniture) from extremis.

Some of the high-end home furnishings appear minimalist or Scandinavian in comparison to the Southwestern-style designs that occupy the Pueblo Revival dwellings that Brazilian architect John Gaw Meem turned into Santa Fe’s architectural canon beginning in the late 1920s.

Is the City Different ready for dhouz? It’s hard to say. Anderson’s lovingly designed objects would look out of place among the Santa Fe Style furnishings of the city’s mini-haciendas, with their kiva fireplaces and vigas. One could argue that Anderson, with his love of contemporary, minimalist design, is the anti-Meem. He’s bringing to Santa Fe components of international modernism that Meem fought against by championing Pueblo Revival.

Even if the City Different as a whole isn’t ready for dhouz, Anderson’s neighbors in the Baca Railyard certainly are. Light industrial living appears to be the rule of the day among the live-work and mixed-use spaces nearing completion on the campus operated for the city by the nonprofit Santa Fe Railyard Community Corp.

Anderson’s metal bench for interior or exterior use is inspired by origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. (Courtesy of Mark Anderson)

Architects and developers from around the world have been attracted by the chance to experiment in the area that once served as a coal and fuel storage yard for the Denver & Rio Grande and New Mexico Central railways. Among them are Anderson’s landlords, architect Devender Contractor and his partner Alina Boyko, who developed Shoofly Pie. The 6,000-square-foot project includes two 1,700-square-foot living spaces (already sold) in addition to the commercial space leased by dhouz.

In an oasis of modernism and salvaged structures, one can contemplate Anderson’s origami-influenced coffee table, a series of two-level tables called “split persona” or wall constructions that incorporate real elements from nature. Despite his firm’s nod to the Bauhaus movement, these are not low-cost, mass-produced objects one might find at IKEA or Design Within Reach.

Said Anderson in a statement: “The origin for any design I do is to always find a way to incorporate a unique perspective. I’m looking for a ‘one of a kind’ result. Many times, I limit the designs to a series of six to 12 objects. I get restless about producing too many of the same type of objects.”

Clearly, Anderson believes he can straddle the fine line between art and furniture. He plans to have a “sneak peek” version of his store/storytelling space up and running in time for the holidays. The grand opening is scheduled for the designer’s 75th birthday on Valentine’s Day 2020.

The prices for Mark’s Objects? As the adage goes, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.” Actually, the price points are within reach for the upscale clientele that Anderson is targeting: The furniture ranges from $1,500 to $4,500, while the wall art costs between $3,500 and $5,500. The stories, however, will be free.