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SF Review Board: Author’s home should not be a castle

Plans for George R.R. Martin’s new library have been rejected by the Santa Fe Historic Districts Review Board.

SANTA FE – The tall towers and expansive walls that made the castles in the hit HBO TV show and book series “Game of Thrones” famous are some of the very reasons Santa Fe residents didn’t want those elements recreated in their neighborhood.

“Game of Thrones” author and Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin had his plans to build a library elevator tower rejected by the Santa Fe Historic Districts Review Board this week. Among other reasons, residents said it would attract too much attention to the area.

The proposed free-standing library, called the “Water Garden Keep,” is named for the area that was a trade center in the fictional continent of Westeros in the books and TV series. The proposed tower was rejected because the elevator and stair tower of the library was planned to be about 25 feet tall, 6 feet higher than the maximum allowable height for a building in the historic district.

All presiding board members voted against the height exemption, except Cervantes “Buddy” Roybal, who recused himself from that portion of the meeting. The applicant can either appeal the decision to the Santa Fe City Council or resubmit the application to the board.

Alexander Dzurec, an architect designing the building, said that when the project was originally brought to the board in January, concerns were heard and taken to heart. He reminded the board they were there only to discuss the height of the building, not the design elements.

Historic Division Preservation Manager Lisa Roach said the tower design had changed significantly since the most recent proposal because it was previously proposed to have a stone facing with a pitched roof. Now, the tower has a flat roof and adobe-like walls.

But board member Frank Katz didn’t see much difference in the design.

“I was a little dismayed how little it was changed; there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind looking at that structure that it’s a medieval castle keep,” Vice Chair Frank Katz said. “Yes, they have tarted up the top of the tower with hints of territorial style, but you don’t see a brick territorial style in a round tower.”

He added the location of the tower is very visible from the southwest and that he didn’t see how the structure fits in with the design criteria of the district. It was clear that it wasn’t an adobe building, but a medieval style, he said.

Dzurec noted that the people living at the property have mobility issues and one is wheelchair-bound. He said the elevator tower makes up only 8.8% of the building’s total footprint.

The reason the building is taller than the height limitations is to allow for the elevator tower and stairway roof access, he said. The residents are in their late 60s, and, as they age, Dzurec said he doesn’t expect their mobility issues to get better.

Neighbors also submitted a letter signed by 43 people in opposition to the structure.

“The fact remains that the proposed building is still a prominent castle in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Santa Fe,” they wrote.

Mark Graham, a neighbor to the south of Martin, said that he feared more problems would result if the castle design were approved.

“(Given) the notoriety of Mr. Martin and ‘Game of Thrones,’ we absolutely fear that our neighborhood will become the next treasure hunt, that his fans will be looking to find the castle in the middle of Santa Fe,” he said.