A half-hour’s drive south of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Cerro Pelon ranch was completed a few years ago, but the world is just getting its first look at the project now, after its owner – fashion designer and movie director Tom Ford – listed the property for sale.
The ranch and its two private compounds were personally sited and designed for Ford – who has lived in the Santa Fe area since childhood – by Pritzker-winning architect Tadao Ando. The star attraction of the ranch is a low-slung house that appears to float above a reflecting pool reaching virtually to its doorstep. Ample windows look directly onto the broad reflecting pools – a signature move common to Ando’s residential project. The property’s waterways are sustained by the Galisteo River, which flows through one corner, providing wildlife habitat and grazing pastures for the ranch’s animals, despite the arid climate.
The ranch’s equestrian compound includes a state-of-the-art hippodrome for eight horses, as well as indoor and outdoor riding rings. Here, Ando broke from his typical rectilinear forms to create circular arenas better suited to riding laps. While both are delineated by a solid concrete wall, the indoor arena is set in a dip in the landscape and topped with a board-formed concrete slab ceiling. Eye-level openings look out over the scrubby terrain just above ground level, with views of the distant mountains. The outdoor ring, on the other hand, is set apart from other parts of the ranch by the reflecting pool, connected by a gangway topped in crushed gravel.
Throughout all these structures, Ando’s signature brand of Japanese minimalism is blended seamlessly with the traditional ranch typologies of the American frontier. Outdoor areas are largely turned over to the natural scrub, with minimal xeriscaping, with trafficked areas relying more heavily on gravel surfacing than on paving or manicured gardens.
Ando has clearly taken his cues from the ranch’s stunning “wild west” site in the Galisteo Basin, with its seemingly endless flat scrub land, dotted with the occasional low mountain. The largest of these, Carro Pelon Mountain, aka the Galisteo Wave, is located right on the 8,400-hectare property. Ando has also drawn up plans for a second residence to be built here, on the ranch’s highest point.
The primary residence and riding areas were constructed under the oversight of Los Angeles’s Marmol Radziner, which also contributed contributed several outbuildings to the project – though some of these are impressive residences in their own right. Marmol Radzinger is responsible for the compound’s two private guest houses and four staff quarters, including the ranch manager’s headquarters. Designed to blend in seamlessly with Ando’s lynchpin buildings, these headquarters include a full-scale house, a detached office building, and their own horse facilities.
Of course, no private ranch is complete without a dedicated airplane runway and hangar. This kind of room to roam doesn’t come cheap. The ranch’s reputed asking price? A cool US$75 million. But who can think about money when they’re riding past their own private desert oasis, under the vast New Mexico sky?