Archiscape Blog


Posted on October 18, 2010 by Karin • Filed under:


Taos Pueblo, photos: Angelo Accomando

In a few places in the world, one can imagine the architecture as being of the earth, forms inspired from the surrounding landscape. New Mexico is such a place. Platonic shifts, volcanoes, wind, water and ice have shaped the landscape over millennia. PaleoIndians, Archaic Hunter-Gatherers and the Ancestral Pueblo people roamed and lived in these landscapes long before the Spanish arrived in 1540. The vernacular architecture of today derives from the early adobe structures of these ancient peoples.


Aspens at Teseque Peak, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Bandolier Nat’l Monument, Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Park, El Mapais Nat’l Monument

New Mexico is blessed with varied landscapes from high plateaus or mesas, numerous mountain ranges, canyons, to valleys, and creeks or arroyos. The mild, arid climate, with abundant sunshine and low precipitation has created this variation in ecosystems. Dry areas have been carved by the wind, valleys around the Rio Grande and other rivers are relatively lush.


In the Bandolier National Monument (3 center photos), ruins of the villages of the Ancestral Pueblo people date from 1150 to 1550. Much can be learned of the culture of these people from the shapes, sizes and layouts of their villages, their ritual spaces and their homes. In Taos Pueblo (first and last photo, and main article photo), a living community whose main structures were built in 1,000 to 1,450, homes and businesses were built up against and over one another, to form a multi-storied complex. The original doors and windows would have been in the roof only.
In both these communities, walls were made of adobe – earth mixed with water and straw – then either poured into forms or made into sun-dried bricks.


In Santa Fe and Albuquerque, adobe construction is used for all forms of architecture – plazas, churches, stores, homes. Structures are generally low-lying, 1-story for most homes, taller structures reserved for churches, government buildings and some businesses.


New Mexico has a mandate for all new state buildings to receive LEED certification of at least silver. We visited a laboratory building, a building type whose main rooms are traditionally underground with very little natural light. Here, clever use of landscaped light wells and indirect light, have transformed a potentially dark building into a structure filled with light and air. Photos from left: a basement hallway directly under the lobby receives indirect light through a glass ceiling; the lobby with shaded and indirect light from above, allows spaces on the floor above and floor below to receive indirect light; the main facade is of adobe-colored concrete, high-efficiency glass and steel; the South-facing entry has deep ‘eyebrows’, to keep unwanted solar gain, but let in light; a landscaped light well brings light into the first level below grade, while providing a pleasant view and a break space.

View an example of an Adobe Abode.


“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
-Marcel Proust, French Novelist & Author 1871-1922

A bientôt,