In the ’90s the state conducted a survey of the properties along Route 66. Through the survey, it was determined that the Monterey Motel (MOMO) did not qualify to be on the National Historic Register. MOMO had undergone several alterations since it was first constructed in the ’30s. When the idea was sparked to revamp MOMO, Rupal Engineer—who is the principal-in-charge and project architect for Design Plus, LLC—was on the scene. The firm has been working with the City of Albuquerque, the National Park Service and the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division to revitalize the historic Route 66 corridor along west Central Avenue.
MOMO Gets The Nomination
When Design Plus was given the opportunity to work on the design of MOMO, they made moves to nominate MOMO to be on the Historic Register. But first they needed the support of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs’ Historic Preservation Division. Engineer gathered supporting documents regarding the history of MOMO and presented them to the state. However, much to her dismay, the state did not consider the renovations and modifications made by Design Plus to be justified for nomination.
MOMO’s exterior transports the weary traveler along Route 66 into a distant era. When MOMO was first constructed, it had a flat roof and facia with neon lights. In the ’70s owners removed the parapet and added the asphalt to create a pitched roof. The sign as well as the windows are original, and Design Plus was able to obtain a National Park Services grant to refurbish them. Now the firm has added as many elements as possible from the ’70s in a purposeful attempt at restoration. The MOMO we see today was reconstructed based on the few photographs and postcards out there the firm was able to obtain.
Scandinavia meets the Southwest
The intent of the renovations made to the interior of MOMO was to focus on a Scandinavian schema known as hygge. Hygge refers to a mood of comfort and coziness that brings about feelings of wellness. Engineer states, “Our take on historic repurposing is to preserve the relevance of when it was built and how it was built.” MOMO has always been a more modern building, even back in the ’30s, compared to its neighbor El Vado.
Engineer and her daughter, Sanchi Engineer, drove from Chicago to Albuquerque along Route 66, and Sanchi took photos along the way which are displayed in every room. Sanchi also designed macrame wall hangings in each room that demonstrate the interwovenness of all the elements of traveling on Route 66 as well as the design elements presented. The newly constructed back building also takes inspiration from the ’30s era by including block wood and metal fences. MOMO has maintained simple lines, punch windows and metal detail bands that add to its modern flare. It now has a more European style in terms of architecture that blends touches of the Southwest with clean Northern European-Scandinavian elements.
The newly renovated and redesigned Monterey Motel and MOMO Lounge is expected to reopen on Aug. 4.