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Sawmill Market

Sawmill Market

Islyn Studio transforms a former Albuquerque lumber warehouse


June 4, 2020 | , , ,

By Will Speros
Photography by Read McKendree

Just beyond Albuquerque’s original Old Town settlement stands the Sawmill Market, which has debuted as the first food hall in the state. The attraction is housed within a former midcentury lumber warehouse overhauled by Brooklyn, New York-based design practice Islyn Studio to capture a sense of history and place while also reimagining the regional vernacular. Described as “a new food and wine revolution in New Mexico” by Islyn Studio founder and creative director Ashley Wilkins, Sawmill Market overflows with a dose of culture from the Duke City.

“The original brief was about half the scope it ended up being,” Wilkins explains. “I think we originally started with three owner-operated restaurants and some light outdoor space.” The marketplace and F&B venue now spans 30,000 and 20,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, respectively, drawing layout inspiration from the functional design of traditional Navajo trading posts.

From the clandestine, greenhouse-style cocktail bar Botanic to the neon, Mexico City-inspired restaurant Flora, nearly 20 vendors each contribute to the colorful portrait of the city.

The overhaul of the classic property inspired a localized narrative that weaves in site and city history.“We wanted to invite the world to view Albuquerque through fresh eyes, and to experience a richness and ease of spirit—rare in today’s culinary culture,” Wilkins says. Original warehouse timber is upcycled, while references to indigenous craftsmanship are expressed through handmade natural tiles, saddle leather, and earthy layering that also offset the industrial structure.

Wilkins notes, “One of the biggest design challenges was working to develop a new design language that felt deeply personal to the client and the land. We made sure to cross check all of our historical references and utilize any information we could get our hands on regarding the building’s layered past.”

The animated outdoor terrace is equipped to serve a range of programming, from film screenings to picnics, with a stage crafted from reused site materials. “Sawmill Market is New Mexico’s first food hall, but it’s more than that, too,” says Wilkins. “It’s a place to gather and rejoice, to experiment and take risks, and to champion the best, most innovative ideas circulating in Albuquerque. We were able to hold local talent up to the light, and in so doing, invigorate the new district for the next generation of chefs, bartenders, and artists.”

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