Three UNM students refused to let a historic building go to waste when it was demolished last semester.

Built in 1908 on the corner of Silver Avenue and Cornell Drive, the Werner-Gilchrist house was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, as well as in the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties. It was condemned to demolition last November.

Architecture student Hilary Noll said she and fellow students Bron Heintz and Bailey Porter were able to salvage and recycle materials in the midst of the demolition.

“Rather than the normal way buildings are disposed of, this is a process of carefully and meticulously taking it apart, piece by piece, and saving those pieces for reuse by recycling,” Noll said.
“A Sum of its Parts [Edifice and Assembly]: Deconstructing the Werner-Gilchrist House” is an exhibition showcasing the three-week deconstruction process of the building. It opens Friday in the Rainosek Gallery in George Pearl Hall.

Noll said she and Heintz had discussed the importance of recycling materials from old buildings, so they jumped on the case upon hearing about the demolition of the building. She said they asked architectural photographer Porter to document the event, and together they hope to create a ripple effect which would encourage others to recycle old buildings.

“It has this architectural life as a historic landmark, but I think in the larger context, houses around the country every day just like it are coming down, so it’s that bigger question of, ‘When can we do something?’” she said.

Porter said she ran into a few difficulties documenting the event.

“It was pretty bare bones when we got there, just had a few elements,” she said. “It had a few elements found behind some baseboards — a few pieces of history. It was so neglected and in such poor shape. It was difficult to suck information from that house.”

The deconstruction process was a slow one in which the group bonded with the building and its history, Heintz said.

“We were trying to capture the intimacy of achieving this,” Heintz said. “There’s all of these connections that are to be taken individually. Every nail gets pulled, every door gets unhinged. There’s these layers of quality that we’re trying to look at.”
By the end of the deconstruction project, the group was able to send off most of their rummaged pieces for reuse, Heintz said.

Pieces were sent to buildings and construction groups throughout Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and Heintz said he enjoyed watching these materials gain a new life.

“I think people really don’t value these materials, it’s not visible,” he said. “They’re not seeing or evaluating, looking at the materials and seeing them for their beauty or for what they could possibly be. We’re trying to look into those details and say, ‘This actually has a quality in itself,’ each material has a quality in itself that can be maintained.”

“A sum of its parts [edifice and assembly]:”
Deconstructing the
Werner-Gilchrist House”
Rainosek Gallery in
George Pearl Hall

Opens Friday, runs through
Tuesday, May 1
6 to 9 p.m.