The year is 1968... a group of young idealists set out to make an utopian dream of a community that translates to a progressive reality where people of many backgrounds and ages would live comfortably together. Clusters of private homes surrounded by inviting communal plazas and places for healthy recreation the concept of La Luz was hatched. Ray Graham was the visionary land owner. Antoine Predock was the inspired architect. Didier Raven was the enthusiastic developer. Gunnar Dahlquist was the inventive contractor. Joining their dreams with a team of skilled local craftsmen, they created a community where people would live in a way that co existed with the established natural environment in which it is nestled.
La Luz (Spanish for “the light”) is the name of the planned community on the west banks of the Rio Grande close to the west mesa in Albuquerque, New Mexico. La Luz is a truly a phenomenon, consists of a community of 96 adobe homes surrounded by nearly 50 acres of unspoiled land that blends the best of natural surroundings.
Today, the meaning behind the name of La Luz is a sparkling reminder of the unique beginning of this community. La Luz resulted in a new conception of how people can live with each other and the environment around them. La Luz reflects on its past, as it dreams, plans and prepares for a future in the light of tomorrow.
Part of the pleasure of living at La Luz, since the very beginning has been the perfect balance achieved between privacy and community. Leaving the fast, busy activity along Coors Road, one slows naturally onto gently meandering streets lined by low adobe buildings nestling close to the land as sculptural forms. These homes seem to bask peacefully on the gradual terrace of the earth falling to the bosque and the Rio Grande below. There is a rhythm of walls broken by gates leading to intimate, personal gardens. Opening within are the most private spaces, individually furnished with loving care, the true La Luz heart--the homes and the people.
Some La Luz residents have residing here since the beginning. They have watched as the dirt of the bare mesa base was trenched so that concrete foundations could be poured to support the walls of adobe brick that would encircle spaces that they and later residents would live in. Courses of 14 inch deep bricks, compacted from nearby mesa mud, grew taller and taller with openings left so future dwellers could have the best possible views. Topped with concrete lintals and accented with concrete canales, the buildings were finished with a fresco-like coat of plaster in a single color--La Luz Brown.
Some of the first homeowners used brilliant colors to break the bright white stucco interior walls. Red brick floors were laid so they created a flow from outside to inside and back again to outside causing the walking space to seem unlimited. Vigas found on ceilings in historic New Mexico homes inspired an update of Douglas Fir wood planks. The finished look challenged the first residents to furnish interiors with a mix of antiques and the best of the new mid-20th Century contemporary furniture that now is considered classic.
The construction period for La Luz was from 1968 to 1972, when the first homes on Arco were followed by those on Berm, Link, Pool, Tennis Court and Tumbleweed. The final four homes on Arco were added in 1974 and 1975.
Within a few years after its beginning, La Luz was completed in the form that continues today. As Albuquerque’s West Mesa built up around it, La Luz became a hidden enclave nestled below the Coors Road embankment, a place where the pace of everyday life whizzed by it while the community was able to maintain a sense of peace. The amazing separation from the dizzying pace of life is one of the reasons La Luz continues to draw new residents from all over the country.
A first time visitor driving into La Luz knows instantly that this is indeed a different place. From a distance, the house rows undulate along the land horizon in a rhythm that is a reminder of the ancient city walls of Avila, Spain. Up close, standing below a parapet that is two stories tall, the dancing play of light becomes quite evident. This is sol y sombra, sun and shade, the yin and yang of intense light at 5000 foot altitude that brings a powerful drama to patterns created by the adobe buildings. The entire community of buildings is like a gigantic installation of sculpture rising naturally from the earth’s landscape.
The best way to experience La Luz is to be there as part of it. While on the surface, La Luz would appear to be merely a place of great architecture, it is really a place that honors the individual lives of the people who live within it. All who live here share its setting, views, homes and hospitality and are the real reason that La Luz shines in the vitality of its life.
All 96 homes in the Community share equally in the governance with their financial support and committed volunteer efforts. Everyone at La Luz shares and everyone at La Luz benefits.
In 1978, La Luz was honored to be listed as Site No. 539 on the Registered Cultural Property list in the State of New Mexico.
In 2018, the community of La Luz, will celebrate 50 years of groundbreaking community living, architecture, and environmental preservation.