99% Vernacular: Volume 3

Roman Mars [00:00:02] This message is brought to you by Discover. Did you know you could reduce the number of unwanted calls and emails with online privacy protection, the latest innovation from Discover? Discover will help regularly remove your personal info, like your name and address, from ten popular people search websites that could sell your data. And they’ll do it for free. Activate in the Discover app. See terms and learn more at discover.com/onlineprivacyprotection. This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. When you own a home, water is your greatest enemy. So much work is put into keeping water from coming in, and so much engineering is built into getting whatever water that inevitably seeps in back out again before it pools and causes rot. This is one of the reasons why I am so fascinated by the houseboats of Sausalito, California, which seem to tempt fate with their very existence. The floating homes that fill up and spill out past the docks of this Marin County town started appearing at the turn of the 20th century. But it was during World War Two, when tens of thousands of people flooded into the area to work in the shipyards, the real housing boom along the Sausalito waterfront began. Housing was scarce, and workers made homes out of old boats and any other materials they could scrounge. Today, there’s a wide variety of houseboats dotted along the bay. Some are real boats that could unmoored and sail across the sea, but many have no means of locomotion at all and are just houses on floating pallets. Some are multistory, opulent weekend retreats. And some look decidedly original recipe, like they were indeed made out of driftwood during World War Two. When the staff came to the Bay Area for our most recent retreat, I took the team kayaking on the bay near the houseboats. It is so peaceful. It is one of my favorite activities. If you enjoy walking around your neighborhood and wondering about the lives of the people inside, kayaking near houseboats is like that on acid. It is such a bold choice of lifestyle. Your mind goes wild with possibilities. I mostly imagine two types of owners–rich retired folks who want to be present on the water and ensconced in a weird, tight, bohemian community, and people who have bottomed out and live in the architectural equivalent of steering into the skid. Living on a houseboat may be a good path or a bad path, but it is most definitely a path. In the final episode of our Vernacular Spectacular Anniversary series, 99PI producers and friends of the show will be sharing more stories of regional architecture–some close to home, some on remote islands–that capture our imagination and inspire us to look deeper. Thanks again for joining us, and thanks for getting us to 502 episodes. Up first is Digital Director Kurt Kohlstedt. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:03:22] A while back, I opened an email from a 99PI listener located in Bermuda named Amy Daniels, in which she introduced me to her island’s remarkable vernacular architecture. So, I wrote back to her to find out more. And the next thing I knew, Amy was introducing me to a local architect. 

Colin Campbell [00:03:40] My name is Colin Campbell. I’m a senior architect for OBM in Bermuda. OBM is a firm that started in Bermuda over 85 years ago. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:03:48] And when I asked Colin how he and Amy knew one another… 

Colin Campbell [00:03:53] It’s Bermuda. It’s family. Amy had asked her mother, and her mother, who just scratched her head, said, “Oh, I know this fellow.” 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:03:59] So, everything’s two degrees of separation. Okay. 

Colin Campbell [00:04:01] Exactly. Yeah, exactly. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:04:03] Before we got to architecture, I asked Colin to start out by just telling me about Bermuda–which, to be honest, he really sold me on. 

Colin Campbell [00:04:11] Bermuda is a place that if it hadn’t been made, you couldn’t dream it up. It’s so crazy beautiful. It’s a little island. It’s 22 square miles. It’s just on the edge of the Gulf Stream, so we have a temperate climate as opposed to a colder North Atlantic climate. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:04:26] Colin went on to explain that the first European settlers arrived on this beautiful island back in the 1600s, and a lot of their early buildings were wood-framed and topped off with roofs made of thatched grass. But as we all know from the Three Little Pigs, straw and wood aren’t the most robust materials. 

Colin Campbell [00:04:45] For almost 100 years, people did a stick and frame construction. And then after the couple of hurricanes in 1712, 1714, a light bulb went on. The only thing left standing were stone buildings, and so the whole technology changed, and people started building with native stone. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:05:00] And so stone became a critical part of the island’s vernacular. It made for robust walls, and it made use of this plentiful local material. And these stone walls were, in turn, topped with heavy stone roofs, which have a noticeably steep slope. A slope serves a vital function in a hurricane. It turns out that a shallow roof can really suck during a tropical storm, while a steep roof… Well, I’ll just let Colin explain it. 

Colin Campbell [00:05:28] It doesn’t suffer suction, which is the big problem in a hurricane. As the wind goes rushing over a roof, if the roof has a lower pitch, it acts as a wing, and you have lift. And many buildings are torn apart not by the wind pushing it but the suction forces that collect on the other side of the roof. So, these slightly higher-pitched roofs here in Bermuda also act to create enough turbulence that they break the suction forces, and they stay intact. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:05:56] So the roof pitch helps. But the most distinctive part of these rooftops visually isn’t the slope. It’s the way overlapping stone slats make the sides of each roof look like a bright white staircase. And this style of Bermuda roof serves a purpose related to another feature of the island’s climate. 

Colin Campbell [00:06:14] And what this does is it slows the water down. As the water hits the roof, instead of going rushing down on a flat, plain surface, it has to go down a step. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:06:23] So while the overall pitch of the roof is steep, that’s offset by this staircase shape, which keeps water from running down and off the sides too quickly. 

Colin Campbell [00:06:32] Almost like a little river going through pebbles and the like. So, it slows the water down so you can capture the water at the gutter level. And you’re not losing it over the edge of the eaves. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:06:42] Catching water has been an essential function of houses in Bermuda almost since the beginning. 

Colin Campbell [00:06:47] And that was important because the homes did not have wells or any type of common water distribution systems. So, we capture the rainwater for our potable water. And this got started in 1612 or thereabouts just because there was insufficient water on the island available through wells and the like. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:07:04] Early settlers also came up with a clever way to top off these rivers–a coating of white lime. This bright finish helped keep houses cool by reflecting sunlight, while the lime helped purify incoming water. Of course, for this whole clever water collection system to work, it has to rain. Thankfully, the island’s rainfall is generally pretty consistent. 

Colin Campbell [00:07:26] But not always. We’ve certainly seen in the last couple of years–where you go two months or almost three months without any reasonable rainfall. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:07:34] To help hedge these dry spells, a typical Bermuda home can store an astonishing amount of water. 

Colin Campbell [00:07:40] Houses today will carry anywhere from 12 to 40,000 gallons of water. Every house has its own water pump and pressure system. Why that’s important–especially in a hurricane-prone zone such as Bermuda–is that in the instance of a loss of power, you can still get fresh water because every house is self-sustaining. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:07:57] This combination of self-sufficiency and the durability of local architecture helps the island bounce back incredibly fast from even major weather events. 

Colin Campbell [00:08:06] We don’t appear to suffer the amount of damage you see in some of the other islands and the coastal part of the United States in the post-hurricane event and. In Bermuda, after a major event, the island generally has lights on, ready to go within 24-36 hours. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:08:19] And that’s all well and good for the residents of Bermuda, but Colin is rightfully insistent that these local solutions have global applications, too. 

Colin Campbell [00:08:27] The approach to conserve water and to use those resources again is going to be critical for the years going forward and as a strategy for communities, which are going to have seasonal droughts. As we know, we’re all going into a global warming condition. White roofs reflect heat. This makes sense. There should be no dark roofs in America. We should all be doing that. It’s just simple science. 

Kurt Kohlstedt [00:08:49] I couldn’t agree more. Architects would do well to study, tried and tested vernacular solutions like these. And not just from Bermuda, but from around the world. 

Colin Campbell [00:09:01] A Bermuda roof is only white sometimes. In the reflection of the sky, there’s a luminosity that happens. So, the roofs are not static white–they shimmer white. And it’s the interplay of light and darkness on the roofs and in the architecture that I find the most satisfying of the whole lot. To see the subtleties, you have to stand and watch it for just for a little bit, and then you go, “Oh. Oh, that’s nice. That’s great.” Living in an ocean environment–this little park in the middle of the Great Blue Sea–is spectacular. And as a living human being, one wonders why we’re here. I think in Bermuda, you can almost figure it out. I’m that close sometimes. 

Roman Mars [00:10:14] Liam O’Donoghue is the host and creator of a podcast out of Oakland that we love called East Bay Yesterday. And as we’re thinking about the architecture around us and what it means to us, we figured he was the perfect person to talk about one of his favorite styles of local architecture that shows up quite a bit in beautiful… downtown… Oakland, California. 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:10:33] There’s a specific style of house that, whenever I’m walking or riding my bike through Oakland, I happen to notice catches my attention because there’s just so many interesting elements to it. And I didn’t know what it was called for a long time, but now I am familiar with the term Queen Anne Victorian. 

Roman Mars [00:10:53] So we’re in the Bay Area, but we’re specifically in the East Bay, which is a little bit different than San Francisco. And if you were out here for a while, you know this. But I think when people think of Bay Area housing, they think of San Francisco House, and they think of those tall, like, maybe three- or four-story Victorians. They’re the painted ladies that you see during the credits rolling on Full House. You know, they’re very pretty. I totally love them. They’re fancy, they’re ornate, they have lots of colors. But those are a part of our area for sure. But Oakland has something, like, a little bit different–a different variation. How do those relate to what we see in Oakland? 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:11:32] Absolutely. So, the iconic San Francisco Victorians that everyone knows from the opening scene of Full House–they have a very distinct look. And a big aspect of why they look that way is because even back in the late 1800s, real estate was pretty tight in San Francisco. San Francisco is famously located on the tip of a seven by seven-mile peninsula. So even back then, residential lots didn’t have a lot of room to sprawl out all over the place. Hence you get these kind of tall, narrow San Francisco Victorians. In Oakland or in the East Bay, on the other hand, there was a little bit more real estate to work with. So, the architecture had more room to kind of breathe. They weren’t as narrow. And the way that I sort of think about it is imagine those iconic San Francisco Victorians, but if someone, like, squashed it or sat on it. 

Roman Mars [00:12:25] And these Queen Annes are pretty wide-ranging. They were really big, they were small, they have all kinds of different stuff going on. 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:12:32] Yeah. Yeah. So, I think one thing that’s important for people to realize is that “Victorian” is a very broad description. It really is a description of an era–a time. So, it’s like if you’re saying “80s music,” you could be referring to punk, or pop, or a million different styles; it’s not really telling you what that music is. It’s a little bit similar with describing Victorian architecture because it went through various evolutions from, you know, Italianate to Gothic. And then eventually, you know, towards the late 1800s, you land on this style known as “Queen Anne” or “Queen Anne Revival,” which is kind of interesting because it sort of mashed together a lot of the previous styles–sort of Mr. Potato Head-style a little bit. I mean, Roman and I used to be really into punk music growing up–so an analogy for people who aren’t architecture experts, if you think about the earliest kind of punk music, like the Ramones, it’s very simple, direct. You know, four on the floor. “One, two, three, four!” Within a couple of years, though, you get bands like The Clash that take punk and mash reggae, and disco, and all these other kinds of styles into it. And that’s similar to what happened with the Queen Annes. These architects were getting very exuberant and excited about all the possibilities–new materials, better transportation to get prefabricated materials up the West Coast. And because they were able to kind of go crazy, they did. 

Roman Mars [00:14:03] And this is all because Oakland–even though it’s attached, you know, to the continent a little more closely than San Francisco is–it was later to develop. So, there was more space because it isn’t on an end of a peninsula, and there was more time. You know, it was building up a little bit later than San Francisco–not a lot later, but a little bit later. And so, they had this time to both get fancy stuff from the East Coast. And they had space to explode, and it truly exploded into this Queen Anne-style. 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:14:35] And the other part of that equation is they had the money because after 1870, Oakland was the hub of the transcontinental railroad, which instantly brought massive amounts of wealth to what had been a tiny little town a decade before. I mean, one of the first European owned homes in Oakland was basically built with, like, driftwood and scrap materials. And then two decades later–flash-forward within the span of a single generation–all of a sudden, you’ve got people building homes with ballrooms, and organs, and indoor bowling alleys, and things like that. So really the railroad is what changed things overnight. And with this huge influx of money, of course, that attracted industrialists and architects to serve them. 

Roman Mars [00:15:17] Yeah. And they really went all out. And that’s this Queen Anne style; it kind of is the everything style of, you know, turrets, and scallops, and filigree, and colors. And these original Queen Annes–which you can see a few of them–they’re not plentiful in Oakland, but they are about the size of a city block. 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:15:37] They’re huge. And all the terms that you just mentioned–for people that aren’t familiar with them–I think everyone knows what a gingerbread house looks like. And a lot of these Queen Annes sort of evoke that gingerbread house feeling with, like, the witch’s hat-style turrets. You know, really interesting–to put it maybe colloquially–little doodads, and details, and swirls, and things like that on all the little banisters, and balustrades, and whatnot. It was very much a “more is better” approach. It’s like anything that they could cram to these houses for a little while, they really did. 

Roman Mars [00:16:14] And so, like, any sort of big fancy thing that big fancy rich people have–eventually this style kind of trickles down into something more manageable, which is a thing called a Queen Anne Cottage. So, can you describe what that looks like, what that process was, and where you see them in Oakland? 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:16:33] Absolutely. So, the wealthiest people in Oakland wanted their visitors from Europe and from the East Coast to be impressed, right? So, they developed these giant manors and estates around the shores of Lake Merritt and up in the foothills of Oakland. But within, you know, a decade or two, the process of building these homes and the materials became a lot more affordable. And there was a growing middle class in Oakland because all these new businesses that were popping up after the railroad came to town had a whole layer of kind of middle management and other businesspeople that could also afford to build a home. And, you know, think about it, back then when people built a home, it wasn’t like now where I think a lot of people expect to move every couple of years. Transience is a lot more incorporated in our society–in our culture–these days. But back then, when you were building a home, you were like, “This is the home that I’m going to live in for the rest of my life.” So, people really put a lot of work, and thought, and detail into it. And they couldn’t quite go up to the same scale in terms of size as maybe their bosses or the wealthy elite. But they could borrow a lot of these elements, and put them into maybe, like, a one-story house instead of a two or three-story house and incorporate some of the same elements–like scalloped shingles and things like that that you would see on some of the big ones. So, it is basically just a miniature version of these giant Queen Anne mansions and estates. 

Roman Mars [00:17:59] And so this Queen Anne style that you can see sort of peppered throughout Oakland was really of a moment in time. And then it kind of fell out of fashion. What replaced it? 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:18:11] Well, I can talk about what replaced it in a second, but first I want to explain a little bit about why it fell out of fashion. 

Roman Mars [00:18:16] Okay, please. 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:18:17] As I was saying, there was a lot of new technology coming into play at this time that allowed architects to go get very creative, shall we say. And an analogy that it kind of reminds me of is, like, at the beginning of the internet, when people had like GeoCities websites and, you know, you were searching on Netscape and Internet Explorer, and every website had, like, 3D fonts, and spinning cubes, and pixelated flames. And it was just because you could do it, you know? It was just like, “This is new. I’m going to show off the possibility.” And within a couple of years, people realized this is incredibly distracting. It’s not necessary. It looks gaudy and ridiculous. And it became very out of fashion. And now when you see a website like that, if you go on the Wayback Machine or something like that, it feels quaint and sort of humorous. And so, there was kind of a similar trajectory with Victorian architecture. There was a couple of factors that played into it falling out of fashion. There was the end of the century, and I think any time you sort of flip that calendar page to a new century, people are looking for sort of a fresh start. It had kind of hit its end point. The Victorian styles were very popular for a time, but by the end, not everyone was a fan. There was one critic who warned that, quote, “The English house was strangling itself with the entrails of its own past glories,” which is quite a vivid description. But I can’t say too far off the mark with some of the overdone ornamentational houses. There was also sort of a dark side of this. Some of the theories about why the Victorian styles fell out of fashion at this time is because they were really representing European styles–you know, Italian, and French, and English styles. And there was a rising tide of nativism in the United States at the end of the century–at the end of the 1800s–because of the rise in immigration. There was a backlash to that. And this is when you see Colonial Revivals coming up. You know, the simple, good old American Protestant work ethic. “We’re going to represent these values with our architecture now instead of the glamorous or decadent European style that came to be associated with the Gilded Era.” And so specifically in California, two East Bay Architects that really became prominent in the era just following the Victorian time were Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan. Maybeck lived in Berkeley. Julia Morgan was based in Oakland and later went to school in Berkeley before attending architectural school in Paris. But their styles really were the beginning of an original California style of architecture because everything previous to this had been kind of copying and mimicking the European styles. And all of a sudden Maybeck, and Morgan, and people and their school of thought realized, “We should create homes that reflect the beauty of the East Bay Hills, for example.” And so, all of a sudden you get these more simple cottages that are, you know, brown or earth-toned and sort of blend into the hills and the landscape much more naturally than something with, like, a pink witch’s cap on it. 

Roman Mars [00:21:23] Yeah. Yeah. Well, I think the thing I love about California is you see both of them. This history of it striving to be European and then learning to be a Californian is kind of what we all kind of do when we get out here in a way. 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:21:40] Exactly. I mean, you famously recorded your podcast from beautiful downtown Oakland for many years. And so, you know what it’s like to walk around, you know, downtown Oakland and the surrounding neighborhoods. You’ll see Art Nouveau next to Victorian, next to, you know, modernist. And then down the street on a residential neighborhood, you’ll see a craftsman next to an Italianate. And I mean, it’s just all of the styles blend together very similar to, you know, what California culture itself kind of has come to represent. 

Roman Mars [00:22:11] Thank you, Liam, for talking with me. I really appreciate it. It was fun. 

Liam O’Donoghue [00:22:14] Roman, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thanks for having me. 

Roman Mars [00:22:25] Coming up after the break, we talk to executive producer Delaney Hall about what exactly qualifies as an earth tone after this. Squarespace is the all-in-one platform for building your brand and growing your business online. Nothing is too niche for Squarespace, so you can share your thing, whatever it may be. Squarespace’s insight can help you grow your business. You can even build a marketing strategy based on your top keywords or most popular products and content thanks to Squarespace Analytics. With Squarespace email campaigns, you’ll stand out in any inbox. Start with an email template and customize it by applying your brand ingredients like your site colors and your logo. Head to squarespace.com/invisible for a free trial. And when you’re ready to launch, use the promo code “invisible” to save 10% off your first purchase of a website or domain.

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Delaney Hall [00:26:56] The landscape in northern New Mexico will convince you that beige is a criminally underrated color. It’s a high-altitude desert here. There aren’t many trees except for the low-growing pinyons and junipers that dot the hills. And so, the vistas are big, and the geology is right there for you to take in–the red brown rocks, and the caramel-colored mesas, and the cliffs streaked with bronze and ocher. And for more than a thousand years, the architecture of this place has been shaped by the terrain. Early builders in the region didn’t have much access to wood, or tin, or rock. What they had in great abundance was dirt and clay. And that’s what they used to make adobe bricks, which they stacked and staggered with mud. The buildings here reflect the color of the earth because that’s what they’re made of. A couple of years ago, I made a whole 99PI episode about the history and politics of adobe in Santa Fe–the town where I live. You might have heard it. It got into big questions about historic preservation and gentrification. But there’s this one small element that I didn’t explore in much depth, and that is the absurd fights that happen to this day around the color of stucco. There have been lawsuits and long city council meetings and debates about the meaning of color, and what constitutes an earth tone, and–I’m serious–the very nature of what it means to see. 

Rose Simpson [00:28:31] This large black bird has a lot to say. 

Delaney Hall [00:28:36] All of which I will get to. But first, I want to introduce you to Rose Simpson, who does the most incredible crow impersonation I have ever heard. And, okay–more relevant to this story–Rose also has a deep connection to adobe construction. She’s an artist from the Santa Clara Pueblo, which is just north of Santa Fe. And she told me this story that got at just how much adobe means to her. She went to art school on the East Coast, where she was dismayed to live not in a solid mud house, as she had for a lot of her childhood, but in a wood-framed house. 

Rose Simpson [00:29:20] You can hear through the walls, you can hear scratching, and there’s a space where things can live in the walls. All those things are very unnerving to me. 

Delaney Hall [00:29:30] So unnerving that she eventually moved back to New Mexico. 

Rose Simpson [00:29:33] One of my main goals to come home, for real, was just to be in an adobe home, you know? I felt like living in a frame house was like being in a tent–like a glorified tent. “This isn’t substantial!” 

Delaney Hall [00:29:50] Adobe is substantial. It’s one of the oldest building materials in the world, and it’s been used for many centuries by both the Hispanic and Native American people of this area. Rose is Tewa, one of the indigenous Pueblo groups of New Mexico. And her family has a long tradition of building with mud. But it really wasn’t until she moved back from the East Coast that she recognized the degree to which the literal dirt of northern New Mexico was a huge part of her life. It’s the materials she uses for pottery, and sculpture, and home building. 

Rose Simpson [00:30:24] You know, I didn’t snap that how much this place was made of clay–was earth. You know, we eat and we pray with these vessels that are clay from the earth. We live in vessels that are from the earth. Literally, it’s the same clay pot, just turned into a house with a roof. And a long time ago, those roofs were mud, you know? So, you were surrounded on all sides with earth. 

Delaney Hall [00:30:53] So this is the context of adobe in the region–an earthen construction style borne out of the material scarcity and climate of the desert. But in Santa Fe, not far from where Rose lives, adobe has gone from being just a fact of life to being city code. And that’s where these fights about color–about what is and isn’t an earth tone–come in. 

Trey Jordan [00:31:19] A lot of my buildings, I use a cooler tone of stucco. It’s still an earth tone, but it can sometimes have a little bit of green in it. If you kind of think about, like, wet clay. 

Delaney Hall [00:31:31] Trey Jordan is an architect in Santa Fe. I spoke with him for that original adobe story I did. He’s worked on projects in the city’s historic district, where buildings have to comply with a number of rules that keep the city looking low and brown in the adobe style. New projects and renovations in the historic districts have to be approved by a historic board. They are the guardians of the Santa Fe aesthetic, making sure that everything meets the code. 

Trey Jordan [00:32:00] It’s things like a flat roof, window placement away from exterior corners of the building, a majority of earth tones stucco surface. 

Delaney Hall [00:32:11] And it’s that stucco part of the code that has caused some problems. It states the buildings, quote, “shall predominantly be brown, tan, or local earth tones.” 

Trey Jordan [00:32:21] The code only says, “earth tone,” which is pretty vague. So that’s become kind of a tricky area. 

Delaney Hall [00:32:32] Trey himself has run up against the code despite his best efforts not to. He is not a rule breaker by nature, but he does favor those cooler stucco tones. In one case, he stuccoed a home a greenish/grayish color, and then learned the historic board was displeased with him. A couple of H-Board members apparently went out to the house to hold up stucco samples to the walls. They were trying to prove Trey had misled them. It turned into a bit of a fight, which Trey ultimately won. 

Trey Jordan [00:33:04] The ordinance says, “earth tone stucco.” And I said, “I can easily go find earth that’s that tone.” 

Delaney Hall [00:33:12] But one color in particular has continued to be problematic here in Santa Fe–and that’s green. It’s a color you can find in the landscape, but it doesn’t comply with the usual brown stucco regime. The city has been involved in a dispute that has gone on for years with a couple of homeowners in the historic district who stuccoed their house a forest green color. They did this without permission from the Historic Board. When they asked for after-the-fact approval, they were denied. They appealed to the city council, which debated the issue for more than two hours. The assistant city attorney noted that there was limited visibility of the home from the street, which led to a long conversation about the meaning of “limited visibility.” The attorney sounded like she was laying out a Zen koan when she said, quote, “If something is visible, whether or not it is fully visible, if something has limited visibility, it is visible.” The city council ultimately voted against granting an exception to the homeowners. The homeowners then appealed the city’s decision to the district court and were once again denied. But, unwilling to give up, they filed a petition with the State Court of Appeals. Their lawyer parsed the language of the code, which requires brown, tan, or local earth tones. The lawyer wrote, “The use of the disjunctive ‘or’ means that the earth tones described are colors that are not brown, and are not tan, and are some other color.” Once again, the homeowners lost. The city eventually filed a lawsuit to try and force them to comply with the color change. Okay. I’m just going to try to see if the greenhouse is still green. I emailed back and forth with the homeowner who did not want to talk with me for this story. She said they’ve sold the property and moved out of state for family reasons. The last time the house went up for sale, the real estate listings showed a decidedly green-looking house. Hmm. Yeah, it still looks kind of grayish/greenish? Hard to say. And when I drove by recently, I couldn’t figure out if it had been restuccoed or not. I think it’s… God, it’s really hard to tell. Maybe it depends on the light? It’s really hard to tell. Okay. So maybe it is not that easy to find the line between green and brown. But Rose Simpson thinks this whole debate over earth tones misses the entire point. She thinks it is laughable–the lengths Santa Fe has gone to keep the whole city looking like a particular kind of mud construction–even when it’s not–even when it’s just earth tone stucco, whatever that means, over a wood frame. 

Rose Simpson [00:36:18] Let’s get real people, you know? Like, this is where we’re at. Let’s stop pretending. The fact that we would perpetuate a style rather than actually do the work to build the adobe wall–where is the integrity? Seriously. I mean, that’s an incredible metaphor–that an adobe wall has a hell of a lot more integrity than a frame wall. 

Delaney Hall [00:36:51] Santa Fe can be an absurd place, obsessed with its own highly engineered sense of authenticity. But there’s also something touching, at least to me, about the great lengths the city will go to preserve its history and its sense of itself. Where else would I be called upon to think about the nuances of mud? Where else would I come to know the names of commercial stucco colors just off the top of my head? Colors like tumbleweed, and cottonwood, and desert lace. Where else would city councilors talk for hours, like philosophers trying to parse the meaning of green?

Roman Mars [00:37:46] Thank you for being with us for 502 episodes. It’s been a real honor. I realize that sounded kind of final. We’re going to keep going. It’s just been an honor up to this point, and then we’ll just keep going… regardless. Thanks. 99% Invisible was produced this week by Digital Director Kurt Kohlstedt and Executive Producer Delaney Hall. Mix and Tech production by Martín Gonzalez. Production assistance by Jeyca Maldonado-Medina. Original Music by our director of sound, Swan Real. Fact-checking by Graham Hacia. The rest of the team includes Vivian Le, Christopher Johnson, Emmett FitzGerald, Jayson De Leon, Chris Berube, Lasha Madan, Sofia Klatzker, Joe Rosenberg, intern Sarah Baik, and me, Roman Mars. 99% Invisible is part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora Building, in beautiful… uptown… Oakland, California. You can find the show and join discussions about the show on Facebook. You can tweet me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love as well as every past episode of 99PI at 99pi.org.

Liam O’Donoghue [00:39:19] If you think about the earliest kind of punk music, like the Ramones, it’s very simple. “One, two, three, four!” 

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