LAS VEGAS, NM — The historic Rodgers Hall renovation at New Mexico Highlands University received a top architectural award.The project architects, Baker Architecture + Design, won a Distinguished Architecture Merit Award from the American Association of Architects of New Mexico in August 2020. The firm is based in Albuquerque.
The AIA NM jury for the awards wrote, ”The jury felt that the architects have masterfully given timeless sensibilities and a subsequent new life to this building for decades to come.”
“Our 2019 renovation of Rodgers Hall aimed to incorporate modern systems and materials while harmoniously showcasing the building’s historic qualities,” said Mark Baker, principal architect of Baker Architecture + Design. “Modern interiors highlight architect John Gaw Meem’s original building details and Lloyd Moylan’s historic murals as key elements of place and identity in Rodgers Hall.”
Sylvia Baca, the facilities and planning director at Highlands, said Rodgers Hall was built in 1936 and is on the National Historic Register.
“It was important to bring this beautiful building in the Spanish Colonial architectural style back to its original splendor and brilliance while modernizing it to meet the needs of today,” Baca said. “Some of the design highlights for the building renovation on the first floor include the heritage room, a spacious and modern classroom, and a state-of-the-art governance board room. Rodgers Hall again houses the Office of the President, Office of Academic Affairs, and Office of Finance and Budget, which are on the second floor.”
Baca said Highlands worked with the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Office to preserve historic elements of Rodgers Hall such as the Depression-era murals by Lloyd Moylan.
“In previous Rodgers Hall alterations, this impressive fresco mural became obscured by inadequate lighting and surrounding furnishings. It was important for the architects and Highlands to recapture the drama and importance of this mural in the latest design,” Baca said.
Baca said that Baker Architecture +Design had a tall order to fill in bridging modernization with a historic design.
“This bridging required Baker Architecture +Design to revamp the building’s envelope, including windows, roof and walls to meet today’s energy codes, and they completely re-engineered the interior space. The Baker Architecture + Design job was also exhilarating because it involved reviving and combining Mr. Meem’s original design with a new design. This architectural firm is superbly talented, and I really value its vision for designing simple, functional and beautiful spaces,” Baca said.
Franken Construction of Las Vegas was the general contractor for the Rodgers Hall renovation. Franken received a Best Building Award for Rodgers Hall earlier in 2020 from the Associated General Contractors of New Mexico.
“When reviving a 90-year-old structure, the bar for attentiveness, vigilance and surprise is high. Franken Construction’s expertise helped navigate the project successfully to ensure the results were reflective of both the architect and the university,” Baca said.
Baca said that Franken Construction has a long history of completing successful projects in Las Vegas, including several historic renovations at Highlands such as the award-winning McCaffrey Historic Trolley Building completed in 2016 to house the Media Arts and Technology Department.
“We pride ourselves in partnering with Highlands on this Rodgers historic renovation and other historic buildings on campus,” said Jim Franken, president, Franken Construction. “Franken Construction specializes in historic renovations and restorations. It was an honor to work with Sylvia Baca and her team on this beautiful Rodgers project, which is a historic landmark in Las Vegas.”
Funding for the Rodgers Hall renovation came from General Obligation Bond C for Higher Education that New Mexico voters approved in 2016 as well as New Mexico legislative funding awarded in 2019.
Rodgers Hall originally served as the Highlands University library. Once the university built the first phase of its current Donnelly Library in 1966, Rodgers Hall began housing administrative offices.