Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Puebloan Architecture Traits

As early as 700AD, the area now known as New Mexico was settled by indigenous people who were morphing their lifestyles from a nomadic hunting-based existence to a stable agricultural existence. They began to build permanent structures, including pithouses, cliff dwellings, and familiar “pyramid” shaped pueblos. These structures were almost purely functional, providing protection from the elements and natural enemies as well as places to store a growing collection of implements needed for a farming lifestyle. In historic documents, this period of architecture is called “Indian Style.” Today, however, these architectural forms are referred to as Pueblo Style.

An interesting aspect of this architecture is that the Puebloan peoples will sometimes allow a building to die. They believe that, as in life, everything has a season, and sometimes that season ends.

Pueblo Style architecture is characterized by materials that reflect their place.

Structure, Walls, and Exterior
  • Structures are often constructed of puddled adobe (poured like concrete); sun-dried adobe; or stacked stone.
  • Structures are usually two or more stories and stepped back on upper levels.
  • Softly rounded corners and some arches
  • Earth-colored walls covered in mud stucco, if the building is not stone, and sometimes when the structure was stone. The mud plaster was repaired and or replaced annually in an enjarre.
  • Roofs and the floors between levels were supported by flat-laid random length peeled log vigas supporting aspen latillas, willow twigs, split cedar or pine, then grasses or straw, and finally adobe mud, dirt, or sod/turf.
  • Small-ish spaces, based on the lengths of locally-available vigas, about 15 feet wide. 
  • Interiors were yeso - painted white with natural gypsums, with rodestrado - darker earth-tone contrast color paint or manta fabric at wainscot commonly used in later times. If the former decorative technique is used outside, it used bright vegetable-based dyes.
  • Many rooms had a corner firepit with a skylight above it.  Stack-effect heating and cooling provided by fireplaces in the floors and connected on several levels. 
  • Dirt floors 
Windows & Doors
  • Roof vents and high windows for ventilation. Rooms were sometimes exhausted via chimney pots, a later addition.
  • Door and window openings were often low and small with rough-hewn wood lintels, and rarely located on ground level. Rather, the house was accessed by climbing a ladder to the upper floor(s), then descending down another ladder. The crude branch ladders were constructed with rawhide thongs or notched treetrunks. 
  • Doors were closed with hide or coarse cloth, and windows covered with selenite/mica or oiled hide.

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