Though the struggle is long over, this website will remain active as a historical record of our community's effort to Save the Soleri Amphitheater in 2010.
Save Our Soleri

Save The Paolo Soleri Amphitheater
at Santa Fe Indian School

School Superintendent blames concertgoers as poor influence at beloved 1966 neo-expressionist amphitheater

Tendency toward demolition on campus is worrisome to preservationists



The Soleri Amphitheater at Santa Fe Indian School The Soleri Amphitheater at Santa Fe Indian SchoolThe Soleri Amphitheater at Santa Fe Indian SchoolThe Soleri Amphitheater at Santa Fe Indian SchoolThe Soleri Amphitheater at Santa Fe Indian School Photographs by Raffaele Elba courtesy of The Cosanti Foundation

The Superintendent of the Santa Fe Indian School has announced that the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater, originally designed to feature Native American performance arts and now a concert venue, is no longer of use to the school. His office cites the $100,000-a-year-maintenance costs as a financial burden, and concert-goers as a poor influence inappropriate for a high school campus.

Since the demolition of the Amphitheater was announced the Santa Fe Indian School has remained publicly steadfast on their position, but now, due to a recent offer from state Senators Udall and Bingaman D-NM, declared they are open to entertaining re-use of the structure, contingent largely upon funding. This is encouraging news but in no way secures the building's future.

Membership to Modern Phoenix may be free, but the cost of not caring enough is quite dear. It's going to take time and effort to convince the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Superintendant and other stakeholders that to demolish the Soleri Amphitheater is simply unthinkable.

And so in solidarity with the Facebook Group amassing to protest the very idea of demolition, and in communication with the Cosanti Foundation, the Save our Soleri campaign is gaining legs on ModernPhoenix. This website serves as an information hub for those without Facebook access, featuring links to related articles and addresses for authorities involved.

We urge you to read up on the issues and determine for yourself whether your action is needed. We think this issue is too important to remain idle on, and have attached a sample letter of intervention below.

From the Cosanti Foundation

Arcosanti, Arizona, June 11, 2010 -- On June 8, 2010, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater at the Santa Fe Indian School “is scheduled for demolition.” The theater was designed in 1965 by Italian architect Paolo Soleri, who is most noted for pioneering concepts in the fields of environmental architecture and alternative urban planning. Many alumni of the Santa Fe Indian School and local residents of Santa Fe are outraged at the idea of losing the theater, a well-loved venue for performing arts events and graduation ceremonies for the students.

Paolo Soleri said “I am willing to do anything to support the preservation of the theater.”

In 1965 the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) approached Paolo Soleri to design an outdoor amphitheater at its campus in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Soleri’s design called for a dramatically upwardly-shaped, earth-cast concrete structure to cover the performance area. The theater has since been used for events ranging from internationally publicized rock concerts to IAIA graduation ceremonies to the annual Native Roots and Rhythms Festival.

Paolo Soleri recently said “Lloyd Kiva New was the mover that had the imagination and determination to have the outdoor theater at the Santa Fe Indian School. The construction began as the cooperation of the school’s students headed by Lloyd himself and me with the Cosanti Foundation of Scottsdale, Arizona. Imagination was at the origin of the theater, imagination is essential now. This American culture is bent on demolition in all fields. It is a deleterious way of making history and forfeiting memories, the very memories cutting the landscape of history for country in search of culture and civility.”

Read the full press release from the Cosanti Foundation here.

More history about the Soleri Amphitheater at the Arcosanti Website


Unquantifiability of a Place, Part 1 by David Licata
"In November 2006...cinematographer Wolfgang Held and I drove to Santa Fe and shot the theater. Situated perfectly and respectfully in its environment, the theater filled me with the same feeling I have when I walk into a church or through a forest."

In the News

School hints at hope for the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in the Santa Fe New Mexican
"Santa Fe Indian School has hinted for the first time that it might consider preserving Paolo Soleri Amphitheater — in a response to a letter from U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, D-N.M. School Superintendent Everett Chavez said in a statement Monday that despite pleas from those opposed to razing the outdoor theater, the school has never received money to maintain it. "We've always been open to anyone offering 'real' solutions to our plight," Chavez said. "Many people claim they want to keep this place, but so far no one has come forward with any money." "

Redemption Song: For the Santa Fe Indian School, Paolo Soleri’s demise is a beginning, not an end by Laura Paskus for the Santa Fe Reporter
"Demolition for Paolo isn’t a done deal. It may not happen at all. But fear that the ampitheater might just disappear has been palpable throughout the controversy. That’s in large part because the Paolo Soleri situation isn’t the first time the All Indian Pueblo Council has alienated its Santa Fe neighbors and drawn fire from the preservation community."

Bingaman & Udall Offer Assistance in Preserving Paolo Soleri Amphitheater
"We write today respectful of the fact that the authority to determine the future of the amphitheater rests with the 19 Pueblos for whom the land was taken into trust.  This historical landmark has been an important venue for a great number of activities that go on in Santa Fe, and in our opinion it would be a significant loss to the community if the amphitheater is not retained.  To this end, we would like to offer our assistance in preserving the future of the amphitheater should you decide that is the appropriate course."

Senators Offer to help Paolo in the Albuquerque Journal
"New Mexico's two U.S. senators said Thursday they're willing to help with the effort to save the Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre, including by making a pitch for federal funding to improve the aging venue on the grounds of the Santa Fe Indian School. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall released a letter to Indian School leaders calling the Paolo a "historical landmark" and saying that "it would be a significant loss to the community" if it's torn down."

Saving the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater video on THE LINE by New Mexico In Focus
Excellent round-table discussion on the financial viability of raising half a million dollars and cultural sensitivity/responsibility.

Creators and Destroyers: On the Paolo Soleri an editorial by Bart Prince, Architect
"Even had Paolo Soleri built dozens of buildings around the world, there would be no excuse for erasing any one of them. As it is, we are the custodians of one of the few structures designed and built under the direct supervision of this architect. There is no pressing need to build something else on the land now occupied by this structure. The excuse that it does not comply with current codes is as nonsensical as saying the same about Notre Dame or Hagia Sophia. Should we tear those down using such excuses?"

Letter Advocating Preservation and editorial by Conrad Skinner, Architect
"Lloyd Kiva New chose architect Soleri to design the amphitheater before Soleri attained the international stature he holds in our time.  It is prophetic that the amphitheater’s patron had the vision to recognize Soleri’s genius long before others saw it.  Lloyd Kiva New lived his life as an unparalleled champion of Indian arts and culture and as a cultural bridge-builder in our fragmented world..  Stewart Udall credited him as one who inspired the National Museum of the American Indian.  Soleri, at 90, is recognized as a grandfather of sustainable architecture concepts.  His idea of compact cities, integrating living and work, Arcology, harks back to traditional Southwest Pueblos.  Students worldwide study his work."

Tribal Leaders OK Demolition by Jessic Dyer for the Albuquerque Journal
"Calabaza said it was too soon to announce specific plans for the Paolo Soleri site or the space that was cleared when 18 campus buildings were razed in 2008 because nothing is final. But Calabaza said a casino is definitely not in the works. 'I can tell you there is not going to be a casino there. There were never were any plans to build a casino there. It is not allowed; the law prohibits that,' he said. 'The board of trustees has no reason to pursue that and is not even considering that.' "

Worth Saving by eyeamfilms
A video statement on the issue including input of Paolo Soleri, Roger Tomalty and Mary Hoadley

Paolo Soleri to be Demolished on KRQE local news
"A group of students, preservation historians and a concert promoter are crying foul because the 50-year-old Paolo Soleri Amphitheater in Santa Fe is set to close and be demolished. Concerts and high school graduations have been part of the Paolo Soleri on the Santa Fe Indian School campus since 1965. The school owns the amphitheater and has decided to demolish the venue."

Board Has no Say on Paolo in the Albuquerque Journal by Dan Mayfield
"Alan Watson said he feels "impotent" because he can't do anything to save the historic Paolo Soleri Amphitheatre. Watson is the chairman of the state's Cultural Properties Review Committee, which grants official historic status to buildings and sites in the state. Though his board usually has authority over the fate of important buildings in the state, it apparently can't do anything about the "impending probable demolition" of the amphitheater, he said Friday."

Indian School should see the Paolo as asset an Editorial at the Santa Fe New Mexican
"Clearly, it's the pueblo council's call; such preservationist groups as the Old Santa Fe Association and the Historic Santa Fe Foundation have no official say in the matter. Neither does the City Council, despite some members' queries about municipal water flowing to the school — and responses to the effect that city sewer lines cross the property, so tread lightly. As for the federal government, well, our senators seem to have other fish to fry."

Paolo Soleri Amphitheater to be Nuked, an editorial By Kyle Silfer
"In Albuquerque, we only have to look to the wholesale destruction of many of the buildings in the downtown area, culminating in the ignominious razing of the Alvarado Hotel in 1970, which remained a vast parking lot until downtown redevelopment raised a sad simulacrum of the hotel in the same spot. If it all comes down to capitalism, to the pathetic fact that destroying and rebuilding yields more profit than preserving and appreciating, then we need some kind of cap-and-trade program to stop this gaming of the system, some kind of financial incentive to halt the business-as-usual of demolition. What demolition emphatically does not need is a “blessing.”

Why the Paolo Must Stay Standing an editorial by architect Conrad Skinner
"Of course thousands of concert-goers and performers have felt the Paolo fuse special intimacy between audience and player. The Paolo should live up to its potential as a vital and viable performance space. The Amphitheater could be architecturally modified with a retractable roof, to make the structure usable year-round in all types of weather. Addition of the roof, restrooms and performance support areas would avail SFIS students and the community of the Paolo during the winter as well as in warm weather. Immediately the amphitheater's utility and value will increase."

Pressure builds to Save Paolo Soleri in The Santa Fe New Mexican by Steve Terrell
"Outside pressure to save the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater from its planned demolition grew Friday. The state Cultural Properties Review Committee unanimously passed a resolution asking Santa Fe Indian School to reconsider its decision to raze the 45-year-old amphitheater and to consult with city and state officials as well as concerned citizens."

The Mysterious Destruction of the Santa Fe Indian School by George Johnson
"I was driving down Cerrillos Road yesterday, between stops at Home Depot and Trader Joe's, when I saw the destruction: half a dozen mounds of crushed brick and lumber piled on the grounds of the Santa Fe Indian School. A moment later I saw the wrecking crane demolishing the upper story of a large brick building. All of these were historic structures, but the All Indian Pueblo Council, exercising what it claims are its sovereign rights, decided to smash them to smithereens."

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Save Our Soleri logo by Modern Phoenix LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Take Action!

Here are the 3 officials to write to. Everyone else can be copied.

Everett Chavez
Santa Fe Indian School Superintendent's Office
1501 Cerrillos Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502
(505) 989-6302

Public Relations for the Superintendent
Edward Calabaza
(505) 238-8203

20 Pueblos Chairman
Joe Garcia
2401 12th Street NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104


NM State Historic Preservation Office
Jan Biella
Samuel Cata
General Contact
228 East Palace Avenue
Santa Fe, NM 87501-2000

Cultural Properties Review Committee
Dorothy Moore
Department of Cultural Affairs
Bataan Memorial Building
407 Galisteo Street, Suite 236
Santa Fe, NM 87501

City of Santa Fe

New Mexico Indian Affairs Department

Social Media
Join the Save the Santa Fe Indian School Paolo Soleri Facebook Grou
p for updates and activism

Cosanti Foundation
Erin Jeffries
Public Relations Coordinator
HC 74 Box 4136
Mayer, AZ 86333


Download Complete Logo as PDF for posters and D.I.Y. t-shirts, licensed under Creative Commons for FREE use in activism

Download S.O.S Logo as PDF for posters and D.I.Y. t-shirts, licensed under Creative Commons for FREE use in activism

Download Save Our Soleri letterhead for letters of dissent. Write your letter to the individuals cited above.


Chairman Garcia and Superintendent Chavez,

I was made aware of the plans to discontinue use of the Paolo Soleri Amphitheater on the Santa Fe Indian School campus through the Arcosanti Public Relations Department in Arizona. I urge you to work with governing powers in the 19 Pueblos, the City of Santa Fe and the State of New Mexico to find a reasonable solution to this complex issue.

I am an alumna of the workshops at Arcosanti and native of Arizona State. I weave Mr. Soleri's teachings into my Fundamentals of Design courses and make a point to visit the Cosanti campus every year for study and enjoyment by the next generation of designers. The importance of Soleri's contribution to our culture in the Southwest and especially the global Green Movement cannot be understated. The number of his works in our region are in limited supply and the mere thought of losing one is nauseating. If there is anything I can do to help educate or influence those in power to make this situation right, do not hesitate to call upon me.

I urge the Superintendent's Office, 19 Pueblos and Indian Affairs Department to not add to the growing list of midcentury modern masterpieces that have been demolished this decade in the name of something better. Should this tragedy happen, the Amphitheater will be remembered as a black mark and warning to others of the fragility of our built environment in the name of progress. I'm not certain that's a legacy the Indian School wishes to leave. Surely there must be a way to celebrate this structure in a way that addresses the school's need to maintain a safe cultural resource that all can continue to enjoy.

For six years, I have published a website that focuses specifically on midcentury architecture in Arizona, called ModernPhoenix.net. It is part of our mission to inform the community of opportunities for adaptive re-use and mobilize our members when we see an endangered property. To this end, I have created a web page devoted to helping our members take action on this issue at:


Even though Santa Fe is clearly outside of Arizona, Soleri is a huge part of Arizona's culture. I am certain that other Arizonans feel as strongly as I do about keeping Soleri's body of work intact. I had always thought that I would have an opportunity to visit the Amphitheater in my lifetime, and check it off my architectural tourism list. I hope that my first visit will not have to be in protest.


Alison King
Associate Professor of Design
The Art Institute of Phoenix
Founding Editor

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