ART Albuquerque Has Route 66 Style!
Let’s put aside all of the politics that has surrounded the construction of the Albuquerque Rapid Transit (ART). For me, an abiding Route 66 buff, there is a far more pressing concern. Is it ‘Mother Road’ worthy? Does it have the playful, over-the-top aesthetic that we adore in Route 66 roadside architecture? Well, after seeing the Nob Hill ART station just after sunset this evening (when all things neon come to life on Route 66), I must say yeah, baby, yeah!
The Nob Hill ART station is completed (although not operational) and in full regalia. With its swooping lines and ‘Jetsons’ style seating, it speaks in the idiom of Route 66. While a handsome sight during the day, like all things neon on Route 66, it really comes to life just after sunset. Its colorful lighting (with changing colors) keeps the playful spirit of classic Route 66 neon signage while being thoroughly modern. It becomes the centerpiece of Nob Hill at night, creating a more festive ambiance. As you drive down Central Ave., the colorful lighting in the Nob Hill ART station canopy provides a stylish visual cue that this is where the nightlife is.
I shot these ART station photos in Nob Hill on Christmas night after sunset. All of the shops and stores were closed. No one else was there except for my camera, my tripod, and a group of about ten or more sightseeing Chinese tourists who happened to pass by. I could not understand what they were saying. Yet, I could sense their fascination as they took photos of the ART station along with other Nob Hill oddities. I dare say that their snapshots may serve as viral long-distance travel marketing for Albuquerque. That has to be a good thing!
Route 66 is the greatest piece of travel real estate in Albuquerque. It is supposed to be lovably eccentric, quirky and one-off. The ART station adds to that tradition!
I also appreciate the new street lighting installed all along the Route 66 corridor. Central Ave. feels livelier and safer after dark which can only be a good thing for tourism and business. I’m looking forward to seeing ART fully operational!
Update: a bit of a history lesson that reveals the inspiration for the design of ART stations in Albuquerque.
Here it is! The Iceberg Cafe & Filling Station, located just outside of Route 66 during the late 1930s to early 1940s is the inspiration for the canvas awnings on ART stations. The photo below shows the Iceberg Cafe in its heyday (thanks, Library of Congress) Can you see the influence? Check out this blog for more fascinating Iceberg Cafe trivia!
What provides the inspiration for the ‘space-age’ signs that adorn each ART station? Thankfully, that inspiration survives! It is the vintage roadside motel sign from the Premiere Motel in Nob Hill East seen in the photo below. How cool is that?