ACADEMY FOR THE LOVE OF LEARNING: 133 SETON VILLAGE ROAD

Photography by Kate Russell

133 Seton Village Road | Santa Fe | 87508
Architecture: Spears Architects

The Academy’s Mission

The mission of the Academy for the Love of Learning is to awaken, enliven, nurture and sustain the natural love of learning in people of all ages. To achieve our mission, the Academy has developed transformative curricula and methodologies–our learning field inquiry approach–offered through our integrated set of programs, conferences, organizational practices and research. The intent of our work is to help stimulate and support the rebirth and renewal of learning and education in America.

About the Campus

The Academy Campus is “green friendly” and gold LEED-registered through the US Green Building Council. This means our building, designed by Spears Architects, has a significantly lower impact or footprint on our environment than buildings of the past. We’ve chosen materials and energy systems that aren’t as taxing on the planet, which also result in significantly lower energy costs. We’d all like to have lower utility bills these days!

All of the water on the Academy site is consciously conserved in this climate of little water. We collect all rainwater from our roofs into 55,000 gallons of underground storage.

As a result, we meet all of our irrigation needs from this collected water. Grey and black water from sinks and toilets runs through a triple filtration system to also water our gardens. We’ve planted a number of low water cottonwood trees along the arroyo and spiraling towards the campus, creating a lush green oasis for visitors and neighbors.

For energy needs, we derive our heating and cooling from 40 underground geothermal wells, some 5 inches in diameter and 250 feet deep. These geothermal wells are located under our parking lot east of the campus. Geothermal heating and cooling provides a more consistent source of temperature, around 55 degrees throughout the year. We can heat or cool the buildings from this underground 55 degree source as opposed to above ground units which deal with extremely hot days in summer to freezing temperatures in the winter, with sharper temperature adjustments to make the inside of our campus comfortable. All this results in enormous energy savings.

Our infrastructure or the nerve system of the Academy is primarily housed underground, to keep the land as pristine and quiet as possible. The exceptions are five photovoltaic arrays for electricity. These arrays collect electricity for the Academy’s needs and are tied into the New Mexico power grid, turning back the power usage clock. The arrays are located close to our parking lot. They follow the sun during the day and provide a great learning model for everyone to monitor the amount of electricity we gather each day through visual control panels. Technology can be beautiful. These arrays are both sculptural and functional.

Sensitivity to the senses is important to the Academy and the care we’ve taken to conceal mechanicals and silence any noises from visitors and staff creates a nurturing environment for all to experience. Our best learning comes when we are enveloped in a nurturing environment.

The main building on our campus is bermed or built into the hillside. This is a great energy efficient way to build. The front south facing elevation is lower on the hill and consists of two stories. The northern most section of the campus, positioned higher on the hill, is one story. We have a central courtyard in which the Academy Campus wraps around three sides creating an open “u” to the west. In the western open “u” we have a round meditation room for contemplation. Our bermed campus also has a lower profile as a result of this way of building, helping it blend into the landscape.

The lower level houses the Academy offices, Seton Gallery (displaying the Academy’s collection of Seton’s art and writings), the Seton Library, and a conference room with state of the art communications available to stream live video feeds to and from the Academy.

Upstairs houses rooms for intimate gatherings of people of all disciplines interested in the Academy’s programs.

Off to the east of the campus are the guest quarters and an art studio where we have collaborative programs for learners of all ages.

To the west of the campus are the ruins of Seton Castle. We have restored the predominant western walls and some of the south and north walls of the Castle. These walls have been reinforced and made structurally sound. The remaining walls have been taken away with the footprints clearly marked to notate their orientations. The walls we kept intact will create contemplative spaces for visitors and staff, paying tribute to the legacy of Ernest Thompson Seton.

The grounds of the Academy, which comprise some 86 acres, will remain primarily untouched, and in their natural state. Over the years, the Academy has cleared the land, with the help of hundreds of volunteers like you, of over 300,000 pounds of garbage. Wow! We are recreating a sacred honoring space and demonstrate how we can all live in harmony with the environment and with each other.

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