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Tuesday, January 20, 2015


The Lookout Studio at Grand Canyon National Park by Mary Colter. Photo Credit: NPS photo by Michael Quinn
SCHOOL OF PARKITECTURE--By Despina Stratigakos, Ph.D., a Beverly Willis Achitecture Foundation Trustee--Mary Jane Colter, raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, brought a great sensitivity for history and landscape to the lodges and hotels she designed in the American Southwest for the Santa Fe Railway and the Fred Harvey Company.

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From 1905 to the mid-1930s, Colter designed a series of buildings at the Grand Canyon whose bold designs, archaeological references, and use of local materials fired tourists’ imaginations and remain immensely popular sites. She is credited with inspiring the style known as National Park Service Rustic, nicknamed Parkitecture, developed by the National Park Service in an effort to blend visitor facilities with their natural and historic surroundings.

Others claim Colter’s fusion of cultural influences set the standard for Southwestern design. In Winslow, Arizona she designed La Posada in 1929.  Harbinger to La Posada in Gallup, New Mexico was Colter’s 1923 railway hotel, El Navajo, daringly combined modernist, Spanish, and Native American architectural elements and featured Navajo sand paintings in the lobby. The hotel was demolished in 1957, shortly before the architect’s death, to widen Route 66.

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