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meow_wolfWhat happened to the family that lived in this Victorian house? They’re gone… Find out if you can. This is the House of Eternal Return. Actually, this is the Meow Wolf experience; and you will have quite a memorable experience, indeed. Just go with it…and crawl through the fireplace.

Okay… This is supposed to be a blog about architecture and preservation so the hook and handle on this post is about adaptive reuse of a vacant 20,000 square foot bowling alley in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That’s the connection to architecture… repurposing a large vacant space and turning it into an interactive and experiential art and performance space. This is very hard to describe without being a spoiler. It’s not a Halloween funhouse – it’s a journey through imagination and parallel realities. I’ll post a few pictures below but I really don’t want to give away too much information. You have to go there and see it…or, do it.

The brains behind Meow Wolf, the company and the collection of people, came together a few years ago and started making….what(?)…an experiential art and performance space. They kept at it and they found someone to help them along. Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin purchased the old bowling alley building and then leased it to Meow Wolf. Martin, author of the Game of Thrones and all that that entails, is a local presence and theater owner in Santa Fe. The new Meow Wolf facility opened in late spring and has already had over 250,000 visitors.

Many years ago, In St. Louis, an old shoe factory was repurposed into an interactive play-space museum of sorts called City Museum. City Museum unleashes a person’s inhibitions to some extent and lets them experience a sort of warped childhood. Much of it is created from repurposed “stuff” and a visitor can crawl in and out of windows and slide five stories down a spiral chute in the atrium of the building. It is a participatory experience.

Now I only point that out because some of my readers might be familiar with City Museum and think this is the same thing. It’s not. There are a few similarities but a whole range of differences between City Museum and Meow Wolf. A visitor can experience Meow Wolf on several different levels. It can just be a whimsical hour-long visit or it can take up most of the day as the mystery of the missing people unfolds. There is a story here…have they gone off to a resort or some alternative universe. There are clues and relics scattered everywhere and strange portals into different realities. If you go, keep your eyes open, pick up loose papers and notebooks and read them, watch laptop videos sitting in the abandoned office and various bedrooms. Climb up into the elevated spaces. Find yourself back where you started…somehow. I was there for the better part of an afternoon and barely scratched the surface. If you get lost or hopelessly confused the Meow Wolf staff members are there, wearing white lab coats, and they can be of help. There’s no map – you just have to find your way.

This is also a performance space. There are various performances scheduled of various types. On the day of our visit there was a modern dance group (I guess that’s what it was) doing various movements and poses in the shadows and recesses. The technology angle is also a huge presence and performer in its own right. Take time to explore the technology. On the day we visited there was a short line of maybe six or eight people in front of us…not a huge crowd. Admission is reasonable and you can stay until 8 PM or leave, eat, and come back.

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There is an interesting short article on Meow Wolf on the October-November 2016 issue of Western Art & Architecture magazine that provides some additional background.

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