Santa Fe board crushes George R.R. Martin’s plan for ‘Medieval Castle’ on his property

The edifice, complete with an elevator and a roof deck, was designed to house Martin’s vast library. It was to be named the “Water Garden Keep.”

In this March 18, 2013, file photo, author George R.R. Martin arrives at the premiere for the third season of the HBO television series "Game of Thrones" at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. –(Photo by Matt Sayles /Invision/AP, File)

It was not quite as dramatic as Daenerys mounting her last living dragon to destroy a rival kingdom.

But this week the Santa Fe Historic Districts Review Board crushed a proposal by “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin to construct a 24- to 26-foot, seven-sided tower with battered stucco walls on his property in the New Mexico city.

The edifice, complete with an elevator and a roof deck, was designed to house Martin’s vast library. It was to be named the “Water Garden Keep.”

But the board said the size and design were out of scale with the traditional, low-lying Southwestern architecture typical of Santa Fe.


“It is so clear that this is not an adobe building,” Frank Katz, the vice chairman of the review board, said at a meeting Tuesday. “It is a medieval castle, and I don’t understand how we could possibly approve it in its style.”

Mark Graham, who lives near the property, said “the notoriety of Mr. Martin and ‘Game of Thrones’” would put the neighborhood at risk of being visited by marauding fans of the HBO show and the “Song of Ice and Fire” novels it was adapted from.

“We absolutely fear that our neighborhood will become the next treasure hunt,” he said. “That his fans will be looking to find the castle that’s in the middle of Santa Fe.”

The decision to reject the proposal came at the end of a six-hour online meeting and after nearly two hours of discussion about the project.

It was the second time the board had rejected Martin’s bid to build the library. Board members denied approval for the first proposal, which was submitted in January, because of the height of the tower and a design that was “incongruous” with the historic character of the neighborhood, according to Lisa Roach, the manager of the city’s Historic Preservation Division.


Martin did not appear before the board. In a statement released Friday night, Michel Stern, a representative for Martin, said: “Mr. Martin and his wife are frankly in the midst of processing this disappointing news. They are carefully weighing their options with their advisers.”

Martin was identified as the property owner by neighbors who spoke at the meeting Tuesday and by a board member.

His architect, Alexander Dzurec of Autotroph Inc., told the board that he had made several modifications to the design of the library, which would house a “super valuable collection of material.”

For example, many of the Gothic revival elements of the first plan — stone walls for the tower, a pitched roof and enormous, arched windows — were struck from the design.

Dzurec said that, since January, he had met with several neighbors and fielded calls from others who had objected to the first proposal. “They were not necessarily pleasant calls and they did not really want to hear what I have to say,” he said.

Roach defended the design changes in the new proposal, describing it as “drastically simplified.”

“The applicant has gone to great lengths to create a structure that more closely resembles the accepted styles in the district,” Roach said.

But Katz, the board’s vice chairman, said those were “cosmetic, little changes” that did not change the imposing appearance of the building.

The architect, Dzurec, said the height of the tower was needed to accommodate an elevator, which was designed to reach the roof. During his presentation, Dzurec did not identify Martin as the owner of the property, only saying that his clients were two people in their late 60s with mobility problems, one of whom relies on a wheelchair.


“Our clients will not be able to access that roof without an elevator,” he said.

Neighbors who participated in Tuesday’s meeting, however, said they believed Martin wanted access to the roof deck to entertain people. Forty-three neighbors signed a letter opposing the project.

Guy Gronquist, a neighbor of the property owned by Martin and who read the letter Tuesday, said he declined to meet with Dzurec to discuss the proposal because he did not feel the changes he made were substantive enough.

“Our neighborhood does not need nor want this folly,” he said.

After the board voted to reject the proposal, its chairwoman, Cecilia Rios, told Dzurec that he could appeal the decision to the City Council or submit a different proposal.

Katz compared the property owners’ plan to install an elevator to the roof to a medieval lord’s wish to look out over a kingdom. “A castle keep is the castle. That’s where the lord lives,” he said. “The lords want to be able to view over everything.”

The library’s deck, Katz said, was “entirely for that, so they can look over all of Santa Fe.”

He added, “That is not a hardship to be denied elevator access to that.”

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