by Jessa Cast
photographs by Kirk Gittings
architect Jon Anderson infuses a bit of modernism into the old neighborhood
Architects and custom homebuilders are notorious for designing and building a new-and-improved home for themselves every few years. The ability to design ever-better homes is certainly alluring, and of course it’s a great way to showcase one’s building chops. But it doesn’t say much about an investment in community. Renowned modernist architect Jon Anderson, FAIA, of Albuquerque-based Jon Anderson Architecture, has never been a house-flipper. In fact, Anderson recently designed and built his first and only custom personal home—practically next door to the one he lived in for 42 years.
Originally from Rockford, Illinois, Anderson moved to Albuquerque in 1970 to attend UNM’s school of architecture. A year later he met his future wife, Laura, and they purchased their first home in 1976. Anderson was Antoine Predock’s senior associate for 13 years before he struck out on his own. For 45 years he has been racking up awards for spectacular residential and commercial projects in Albuquerque and across the country, clean-lined, glass- and steel–forward structures that were modern before (at least in New Mexico) modern was cool.
He and Laura raised two children in their quiet downtown neighborhood. Rather than moving into new homes over the years, however, the Anderson family has nurtured a love of their neighborhood and community. They weren’t inclined to leave the neighborhood that offered easy walkabilty to downtown eateries and entertainment, not to mention the neighborly relationships they’d carefully cultivated over many decades.
“Laura and I walk everywhere, to restaurants and the movies,” says Anderson. “We go to concerts at the convention center, Launchpad, El Rey Theater, Sister Bar. We ride our bikes a lot.” He adds, “If I could never drive a car, that would be my choice. On a good week I may not drive for three days straight.” No worries about that anymore; his office, a building that dates to 1918, sits between their former home, now a rental, and their new home. No commute necessary.
During the planning stages, the Landmarks & Urban Conservation Commission deemed the exterior of Anderson’s original home design too modern, to Anderson’s chagrin. It needed to blend in and be more compatible with existing homes in the neighborhood, they said. “Most of the houses in the old downtown neighborhood are a variation on a cottage or bungalow style,” says Anderson, who reworked his original design to fit it more seamlessly with other homes on the street—on the outside, at least. The final product, adapted to an attractive and sedate bungalow style, complements the district while holding forth a modernist soul. Behind the unassuming exterior walls, however, the interiors are very modern.
One might think it daunting, nerve-racking even, to be the builder tasked with constructing the personal home for such an esteemed architect. But Paul Kenderdine, owner of PWKI LLC, couldn’t have been better prepped for the job. Kenderdine recently celebrated 30 years of custom construction in Albuquerque. He started as a draftsman at SMPC Architects where renowned architect George Pearl was his mentor. Two decades ago, Kenderdine bid on a custom home project for Anderson and won it. The two have been working together ever since, on both residential and commercial projects.
A peek at either of their portfolios shows the admirable list of projects they’ve completed together. Still, they’re not exclusive, and Kenderdine recognizes the rich pool of local building talent in the Duke City Anderson might have pulled from in building his personal residence. “We were honored that he selected us,” says Kenderdine, “but I also think it meant he was confident we could produce what he was looking for.”
Through the years, Anderson and Kenderdine have developed a seamless way of collaborating, communicating, and anticipating each other’s needs. “Jon really knows how I think; I know how he thinks. I know how he wants things put together,” says Kenderdine. “Because of our relationship, we’re able to design and problem-solve on the fly. We can resolve problems instantly in the field.”
When building plans were finally approved, the existing home, a rental property Anderson owned, was razed. Then, it took about 18 months to build the 2,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, LEED Platinum–certified home gracing the lot today. Anderson planned the layout around preserving a very tall, 100-year-old Austrian pine tree, snugging the house right up to it. A crisp row of glass doors affords a street-side view of a lofty ceiling and steel catwalks within.
The top story comprises the minimalist master suite, with a bedroom, a walk-in closet, and bathroom. It also hosts a media room containing their sole television, and an outdoor patio from which they can hail passing neighbors. Indoors, the metal walkways with their open risers allow Jon and Laura to chat comfortably with each other or guests who are on the first floor below.
A honed marble strip hand-finished by Kenderdine himself leads from the front door (the middle story of the house) and draws the eye across the room to the spacious, modern kitchen. The living room swanks an array of bold midcentury modern furniture and the couple’s original 1970s stereo, which they still use (there’s also a modern, wireless sound system for these music lovers). Anderson indicates the white Eames La Chaise, the Mies van der Rohe Barcelona daybed, and other iconic pieces and admits, “I’m a bit of a collector.” Solid maple stair treads lead down to the basement, where Jon and Laura can entertain guests in the 55-degree wine cellar, or with a game of ping pong.
Jon and Laura christened their new home by hosting their daughter’s wedding here last year. Today they’re well established in their new digs, enjoying a modern home that not only suits their personal taste, but that’s tucked into their familiar and much-loved old neighborhood, close to their favorite haunts and people.
Jon Anderson, Jon Anderson Architecture
Paul Kenderdine, PWKI LLC pwki.com
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