A view from SFI's campus in Tesuque, New Mexico

From its humble beginnings in 1983, with just a post office box and residential landline, the Santa Fe Institute has grown into the physical space of its current home, the Cowan Campus. At the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this site provides offices and meeting space for some 30 residential faculty and post-docs, staff, scores of summer school students, and a regular stream of visiting scholars. 

Sometimes, we’re nearly bursting at our seams.

Supported by a $5 million donation from Bill Miller, Chairman Emeritus of the SFI Board of Trustees, SFI will begin realizing a longtime goal of expanding into a quiet property nearby in Tesuque.

The Tesuque property — a 36-acre estate with a constellation of buildings and trails 10 minutes from the Cowan Campus — was donated to SFI in 2012 by Eugene and Clare Thaw. In the years since, it has been an occasional retreat and meeting space.

“Scientific activity at SFI is ramping up,” explains SFI President David Krakauer. “The Miller gift enables us to create the physical space we need to pursue our core research themes, while also providing a home for new outreach initiatives. It’s a tremendous opportunity to extend the reach of complexity science.”

While part of Bill Miller’s gift will go to support the Institute’s ongoing operations, the majority will fund renovations to the Tesuque property. These will include repairs and updates to the adobe buildings that dot the property and the establishment of hiking and meditation trails. Once complete (anticipated in 2019), the renovated Miller Campus will house offices for the InterPlanetary Project, SFI Press, and Applied Complexity Network (ACtioN). It will also provide secluded workspaces for researchers, and common areas for research retreats and small events. 

John Miller, External Professor and Chair of the Science Steering Committee, spent more than a year at the Tesuque property in 2014-2015 completing multiple book projects — and beginning a new one. “It was an ideal place to think differently and make progress on big-think-type projects,” he says. “When I needed an inspiration break, I could head out the back door and take a long walk in the hills. And I could also easily go to the main campus and interact with the creative, transdisciplinary folks that are the mainstay of SFI science.” 

Tom Easterson-Bond, the architect heading up the renovation, is planning to preserve the contemplative atmosphere of the property while adding more space for collaboration.

“The Santa Fe Institute is metaphorically a Monastery in the Mountains — living at the edge of wilderness and society,” Krakauer says. “The Cowan Campus offers a quiet space for contemplation and conversation — a headquarters for basic complexity research. But after thirty years, we’re ready to expand and to bring the ideas from the ‘Monastery’ back to the ‘Metropolis.’ The Miller Campus — SFI’s second ‘Monastery’ — will help support the introduction and application of complexity science’s big ideas and insights into the world.”