The open-air living space/entry frames a view of the Ortiz Mountains and the property’s namesake windmill. Despite the solidity of the rammed-earth structure, it is pervaded by an airy openness that blurs the line between indoor and outdoor living, showcasing the distinctive palette of materials—rammed earth, steel beams, and rusted corrugated metal—that give the structure an organic feel. This space is usable as a living room three seasons a year—or more during a mild winter.


Autotroph founder Alexander Dzurec at his Marcy
Street studio. The space was redesigned to create
a more flexible, organic working area.

Even before the advent of COVID-19, architects had already begun adapting their designs to accommodate changes in the way we live today. Instead of the hermetically sealed buildings of the past, new design trends bring us brighter, lighter spaces that capitalize on fresh air, outdoor living areas, and flexible floor plans that can be adapted and revised to create privacy and separation when needed.

These principles find form at Santa Fe–based Autotroph Design Studio, where a team of architects creates attractive, livable, environmentally friendly spaces that look beyond the building sites to the larger world. The firm’s diverse array of projects includes “everything from private residences to arts venues to office buildings and entire communities,” says founder Alex Dzurec. “We’ve even designed a spaceship.”

The through-line in all of Autotroph’s designs, Dzurec says, is the goal to foster connections—between structures and their sites, between the sites and their surroundings, and among the people who live, work, and play in these spaces. Achieving this goal entails adaptability, portability, and mobility, which apply to both the buildings themselves and the lifestyles of those who occupy them.

A recent residential project in the Galisteo Basin demonstrates that flexible living spaces can enhance the quality of life within a home, and a connection to the surrounding natural world improves the health and well-being of the residents. Named La Molina for the windmill that adorns the horizon, the home’s singular feature is an outdoor living room that also serves as the foyer for entry to the house, with other sections of the home connecting to the open-air space as well, which in turn provides a link to the site’s broad views.

“What really excited me about the project was the opportunity to connect the site to the larger landscape around
it,” Dzurec recalls. “Rammed earth has a striated look and it resembles the rock formations in that area—abstract but not literal. Our goal was to make it seem as though the residence grew organically from the landscape, and to connect to the landscape through the sightlines.”

This process of integration—of house and landscape, of indoors and out—brings a contemporary aesthetic to ancient building methods and materials, providing an elegant and deceptively simple reinterpretation of how the built environment can respond to the demands of a changing world.

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