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Roma Visitors Complex and Plaza, Roma, TX, United States

Wednesday 31 Aug 2011

When in Roma...

Chris Cooper Photography 
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Award Entry

Kell Munoz Architects conserve and reinvigorate cultural identity in Roma, Texas 

Urban issues in small towns are no less consequential in their context than of those in metropolitan areas. The goal of this project was to conserve & reinvigorate 163 years of cultural identity through the rebirth of "La Plazita Roma" as a vibrant public space. In the remote border town of Roma, population 11,500, economic challenges facing the largely Mexican-American ranching community were compounded by its dwindling downtown and outlying sprawl.

Preceded by acquisition and stabilisation, this project is the second of a multi-phased master plan to conserve the Roma National Historic Landmark District, consolidate the town's cultural centre and revitalise its economy. This project was to be restored to its original context with an emphasis on restoration of not only the historic buildings but also to the cultural values from the mid 1800's of livability and sustainability.

The restored urban complex includes the historic la Plazita Roma, the c.1878 Ramirez Store & Residence and adjacent c.1856 Stone Cottage. Extensive use of lime-based whitewash, plasters and paints were made on-site and remnants of rare hand stencilled interior wall polychrome were discovered under layers of non-historic paint and delicately revealed. Indigenous plantings in the plaza and shady patios also attract birds and butterflies. At the southeast corner of the plaza, a residential/commercial complex is part of the continuous architectural fabric that defines urban space in a manner reminiscent of Mexico.

Rehabilitated as a branch of the World Birding Centre, the "Roma Bluffs" facility is one of nine such branches throughout the Rio Grande Valley managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The Roma Plaza and Visitors Centre complex rescued a singular city in our borderlands, transformed it and created a unique historical sense of place for residents and tourists alike.

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