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Santa Fe Style in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia by Bill Hamilton
by Dr. William G. Hamilton

This article arises from field experiences in built environments of New Mexico, where distinctive visual elements of Santa Fe style architecture inspired the author to record something of the ambience of the region in a series of drawings of representative structures. Five drawings of Santa Fe style buildings in New Mexico portray seminal archetypes as synthesized by artistic-architectural elites and adapted to design of residential, commercial, and community environments.  The four drawings of Santa Fe style buildings in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia portray the results of  transfer of Santa Fe style architecture to a distant region through means other than permanent migration from the Southwest. 

The diffusion of Santa Fe style architecture to the Okanagan Valley has added to the mix of styles introduced by groups of migrants with differing cultural roots.  The regional image of the Okanagan Valley within Western Canada and the United States Pacific Northwest is that of an urban corridor of spectacular scenic beauty which is becoming increasingly important as a destination for retirement, outdoor recreation, and tourism.  The agricultural industry based on orcharding has responded to urban growth and tourism through niche marketing including viticulture.  Scenic resources of agricultural, urban, and natural landscapes are a major component of the Valley's distinctive "place" identity.  However, the character of a place is in large part the result of the buildings which make up much of the built environment.  The character and identity of built environments in the Okanagan have been influenced by the introduction of Santa Fe style buildings, a "post-modern" architectural form which employs pastiche, in a playful combination of paradoxical elements (Goss, 1992). 

Santa Fe style buildings and places in the Okanagan Valley are in keeping with the qualities of post-modern townscapes:  visual juxtaposition of components of built environments "in celebration of differences, of poly-culturalism, of variety, of style and stylishness" (Relph, 1987).  The appearance of hand-crafted forms and textures, intricacy of detail, and use of space meets the approval of architects and planners who choose to follow guidelines established for urban design by Gordon Cullen and Kevin Lynch.  This visual exploration of the spatial diffusion of Santa Fe style architecture to the Okanagan Valley is partially motivated by the hope that it may assist in making sense of how people use ordinary landscapes to establish their identity, express social functions, and derive cultural meaning (Lewis, 1979; Groth, 1997).

Cllick on the icons or highlighted text below to view the pen-and-ink drawings and narrative summaries in pop-up windows.  You may follow the links in order, or choose your own path.

Santa Fe Style in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo, Taos, New Mexico
New Mexico Building
New Mexico Building, Panama-California Exposition, San Diego, California 1915
Museum of New Mexico

Museum of New Mexico, Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe, New Mexico 1917

Territorial Style Window
Territorial Style Window, St. Francis Assisi Church, Taos, New Mexico
"Santa Fe House," Vernon, British Columbia
Santa Fe Style Housing
Santa Fe Style Housing, Taos, New Mexico

"La Dera" Townhomes, Vernon, British Columbia

Portillo Coffee House
Portillo Coffee House, Vernon, British Columbia
Mission Park Shopping Center
Mission Park Shopping Center, Kelowna, British Columbia


I thank my traveling partner and wife, Judy, for stimulating refinement of ideas contained in this paper.


Dr. William G. Hamilton is a professor of urban and cultural geography at Okanagan University College in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.  He has degrees in Geography, History, and Regional Planning and Resource Development from the Universities of British Columbia, Oregon, and Waterloo, respectively.  Mr. Hamilton has written, photographed, and traveled extensively on subjects relating to the built and natural environments, including Scandinavian architecture and urban planning;  cultural landscapes in Mongolia, China, Russia, Thialand, and others;  canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau;  and tourism and agriculture in Costa Rica.

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Cullen, G. 1971 The Concise Townscape (London: The Architectural Press)

Goss, J. 1992 'Modernity and post-modernity in the Retail Landscape' in Inventing Places: Studies in Cultural Geography, ed K. Anderson and F. Gale (New York: Wiley) 159-177

Groth, P. 1997 'Frameworks for cultural landscape study' in Understanding Ordinary Landscapes, ed P. Groth and T.W. Bressi (New Haven: Yale University Press) 1-21

Hall, C. 1989 'The definition and analysis of hallmark tourist events' GeoJournal 19, 263-68

Jackson, J.B. 1984 Discovering the Vernacular Landscape (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Jackson, J.B. 1997 Landscape in Sight: Looking at America (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Lewis, P. 1979 'Axioms for reading the landscape: some guides to the American scene' in The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes (New York: Oxford University Press) 11-32

Lynch, K. 1960 The Image of the City (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press)

Mather, C. and WOODS, S. 1986 Santa Fe Style (New York: Rizzoli)

Relph, E. 1987 The Modern Urban Landscape (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press)

Sheppard, C.D. 1988 Creator of the Santa Fe Style (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press)


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