Pueblo Architecture of Northern New Mexico

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Above Photo: The Taos Pueblo, ©  Luca Galuzzi / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.5

Simplicity is a criterion of beauty. It is easy to make things bigger, more complex, and more decorative. It is much more difficult to simplify.
       — Steve Chambers, A.I.A.

By Stephanie M. Chambers

Some of the oldest extant buildings accounted for on the planet are constructed of adobe. In fact, the oldest home in the United States is an adobe structure in Santa Fe, NM. The Native Americans of the Southwest used a mixture of sand, clay, straw, and water to build their villages. The envelope created by their thick walls and few windows served as a thermal mass, which stored the heat and released it back inside the space at night.

Adobe pueblos are Native American house complexes used by the Pueblo Indians of the Southwest. The pueblos are modular, multi-story houses made of adobe or of large stones cemented together with adobe. Each adobe unit is home to one family, like a modern apartment. The whole structure, which can contain dozens of units, was often home for an entire extended clan.

Adobe houses are good homes to build in a warm, dry climate where adobe can be easily mixed and dried. These are homes for farming people who have no need to move their village to a new location. Some Pueblo people have been living in the same adobe house complex, such as Sky City, for dozens of generations.

The earth-based structures, many dating to the 17th century, are still standing in Northern New Mexico. The durability of adobe is remarkable, considering that this ancient building material is vulnerable to summer rains and winter snows.

Adobe was eventually made into bricks, giving additional strength, and wood beams and distinctive, curved, corner fireplaces that heat entire rooms were introduced. Modern adobe homes, though now built with concrete block and high tech insulated concrete forms (I.C.F.s), still incorporate many of the original design elements, including thick walls, organic forms and wooden beams.

Spanish Colonial Pueblo architecture, often called The Santa Fe Style, was inspired by a mixture of Spanish Colonial and simple Indian Pueblo forms. Features include: a flat roof with a parapet wall, irregular and rounded edges on walls, stucco surfaces, and vigas (round roof beams) extending through walls to the exterior. The basic structure of Pueblo architecture, earthen walls supporting a flat roof has been used by Native Americans for more than 1,000 years.

In the gallery below: photos of pueblo architecture in Taos, New Mexico.

Click above thumbnails for image attribution

Other blogs on Santa Fe Architecture, Interiors, and Style can be found in the links below:

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