New Mexico Art Tells its History

History: Post-War Modernist Architecture

The post-war period and population growth brought influences in from new directions. Modernist buildings based on the “International Style,” emphasized angles and precise wall planes, symmetrical balance, and minimal ornamentation. Simplified rectangles, floor-to-ceiling glass, and an honest use of materials, revealed rather than concealed, were also characteristics of this style. The Simms building in Albuquerque was built in the modernist “International Style,” and it was the first skyscraper built in New Mexico.

The automobile boom brought the need for an architecture of motels, gas stations and diners by the roadside. This populist architecture incorporated modern buildings, desert decoration, neon signs and advertisements developed to attract motorist from a distance as they drove across the state. Photographers and artists have been inspired by the colorful roadside attractions and buildings that can still be seen when driving on highways across New Mexico such as Route 66.

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