Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Adobe

Definition: “A kind of clay used as a building material, typically in the form of sun-dried bricks; a brick of such a type or a building constructed from such material.” Origin: “mid-18th century: from Spanish, adobar meaning ‘to plaster.’”

Adobe has long been the traditional building material of the Southwest. Structures made from it are undulating and sculptural in nature, yet their mass gives them a sense of permanence and timelessness. The word adobe originated in the Arabic language and was brought to America by Spanish colonists at the end of the 15th century. It is used to refer to the earth from which structures are built, the structures themselves, and the unbaked clay bricks made from the earth.

In New Mexico, archaeologists have discovered remnants of adobe walls built by Pueblo Indians that date back to 1200 AD, 400 years before the arrival of the Spanish. From that time, through the 15th century, there is evidence of two types of earthen walls. One was coarse adobe, which started with a stiff mixture of mud and was blended with anything from stones to pot shards. The mud was applied by the handful, layer on top of layer, until the desired wall height had been reached. A more sophisticated method made use of hand-formed, unbaked clay bricks. When the bricks were dry, mud mortar was used to hold the bricks in place on the wall.

Believe me, nothing can take the place of the feeling you get when you enter an old, well-maintained adobe structure. In the summer, it’s akin to walking into a cool, refreshing cave; and in the winter, there is nothing more delightfully cozy than sitting in front of an authentic kiva fireplace. Ultimately, it’s a big part of the process of truly being in touch with the wondrous and sacred land that is America’s Great Southwest. ~Jean

See our special feature about Adobe on Taos Unlimited

Read more about Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico on Taos A to Z

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