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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Isleta Tribal Services Complex in Pueblo of Isleta, New Mexico by Rohde May Keller McNamara Architecture

February 14th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Rohde May Keller McNamara Architecture

“Rhythm in Steel as an Aesthetic Experience”

Established in the 14th century, Isleta Pueblo maintains strong ties to traditional values. The Tribal Services Complex is located in the foothills between the Rio Grande Bosque and Manzano Mountains, and is strategically placed in a natural depression, flanked by two preserved promontories. The complex co-locates Fire, Police, E911, Courts, Council, Administration, Wellness and Vehicle Fleet. Lower levels house public safety and tribal leadership, while the upper plaza level/s serve public needs. The architectural imprint acknowledges an ephemeral existence – to blend harmoniously with the land through time. The aim was to create a sense of unity around a center and acknowledge tradition:

    gathering (proto-urban assemblages around a “middle place”)
    alignment (sun, moon, sacred directions)
    harmony with natural surroundings (earth-water-air-fire-spiritual)
    prehistory (function & belief based architectural chronology)


The architecture is the result of intent to articulate the primary materials in a clear and visible structure that is well matched to the facilities, the functions and the nature of the materials. Subjective and merely ornamental expressions are non-existent and the laws of structural efficiency are respected. The material palette was intentionally limited to steel-glass-concrete, with steel as the primary material expression. Visual impact begins with a building skin composed of (148) individually suspended ¼”x8’x20’ mill sized weathered plate steel panels (CS-Type B) covering the upper level spaces. The top hung plate steel system utilizes slip expansion-contraction detailing to secure it while floating free of the building envelope to create an air space and act as a “rain screen” to offer thermal advantages to the occupied spaces. Each panel was sandblasted prior to placement and the weathered finish was pre-oxidized in place using a proprietary spray applied copper-sulfate solution and reaction “stop-agent” to achieve a rich earthy ever changing coloration.

As a complement to this broad gesture, the Council Chambers evolved as a place of cultural significance. The bold sculptural expression, abstractly references traditional Native American “jacal” construction (definition, noun pl. jacales or jacals, a historical structure of the Southwest, with walls of close-set wooden stakes plastered with mud and roofed with straw, rushes, etc.) in the form of a woven shading shroud composed of over 10,000 lineal feet of type 304 Stainless Steel tubing (4” dia. Schedule 40 and Schedule 10). The tubing was shipped in 20’ lengths, fed through an automated tube polisher – 36 grit, splice welded with “back-up” bars to the desired lengths (various 40’-60’), and again fed through the tube polisher – 36 grit for a final pass before being shipped to the site. Radius components followed the same processes with the addition of roll forming prior to splicing. The radius components were one of the most challenging due to the numerous sized (volute) spiral curves with varied pitch in the composition, which resulted in the need to field verify and re-roll to achieve the necessary custom fits for each tube.

Numerous other aspects of the project take full advantage of both the technical and architectural benefits of steel, including stainless steel tension cable guardrails, steel reinforced cast in place concrete, an extension post-tensioned concrete plaza floor structure, custom steel pew bases utilized in the various assembly spaces, decorative steel pipe rails, and all of the moment resisting structural steel roof/wall framing systems throughout.

The resultant project is a model example of Architects, Engineers, General Contractors, Fabricators and Erectors collaborating “hands on” with innovative design and construction methods, including 3d Modeling, physical scale models, full-scale mock-ups, regular interoperability coordination meetings, and effective construction timing and choreography. The spirit of the sustainable composition respects a cultural interdependence between work-worship-recreation and imparts rhythm as an aesthetic experience.


  • Architectural Concrete
  • Structural Steel Decking and Framing
  • Post-tensioned Concrete Slab


  • Membrane Roofs
  • Stainless Steel Tubing
  • Weathered Steel Plate Skin
  • Smooth Portland Cement Plaster
  • Low-E Tinted Curtain wall Systems
  • Raised Concrete Plaza Paver System
  • Precast Concrete Plaza Planter/Seats
  • Interior Finishes:
  • Stainless Steel Hardware, Appliances, Counters
  • Maple Doors, Casework, Pews, Walls
  • Polished Concrete Floors
  • Carpet Floors
  • Painted Steel Structures, Drywall
  • Galvanized Steel Wall Bases
  • Stone Fire Places


  • Lightning Protection
  • Emergency Back Power Generation
  • Variable Air Volume HVAC Systems
  • Rainwater Harvesting
  • Interior Systems:
    • Modular Systems Furnishings
    • High Density File Storage Systems
    • E911 Dispatch Communications
    • Smoke/Fire detection-alarm-suppression
  • Security Design:
    • Layered Site and Facility Security
    • Bullet-resistant sheathing and glazing
    • Access Control and Video Surveillance
    • “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design”

Looking West - (c) Kirk Gittings Photography


Offices and Fire bay doors looking East - (c) Kirk Gittings Photography




WELLNESS CENTER CAFE - (c) Kirk Gittings Photography


TRIBAL COURT - (c) Kirk Gittings Photography

UPPER PUBLIC PLAZA - (c) Kirk Gittings Photography

Looking South from Lower Public Plaza - (c) Kirk Gittings Photography

Council Champbers - (c) Kirk Gittings Photography

Looking N-NE - (c) Kirk Gittings Photography

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Category: Commercial Building

One Response to “Isleta Tribal Services Complex in Pueblo of Isleta, New Mexico by Rohde May Keller McNamara Architecture”

  1. Kirk Gittings says:

    Thanks for publishing this it is a stupendous project. Please note that all photography was done by Kirk Gittings Photography

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