Adobe – Pueblo Revival

Adobe Definition: A kind of clay used as a building material

Variations of the Pueblo Revival style:

  • Pueblo Deco. Combining Pueblo Revival with Art Deco architecture, these homes are decorated with geometric patterns and Native American designs.
  • Santa Fe Style. This type of Pueblo became the standard in New Mexico after it was defined by the Santa Fe Historic Zoning Ordinance of 1957.
  • Contemporary Pueblo. Stripped down, un-ornamented Pueblos without posts, beams, or vigas.
  • Territorial Pueblo. Corners are square instead of rounded. Windows are framed with straight wooden moldings.

Santa Fe Style Pueblo RevivalPueblo Revival style architecture seeks to imitate the appearance of traditional adobe construction, though more modern materials such as brick or concrete are often substituted. If adobe is not used, rounded corners, irregular parapets, and thick, battered walls are used to simulate it. Walls are usually stuccoed and painted in earth tones. Multistory buildings usually employ stepped massing similar to that seen at Taos Pueblo. Roofs are always flat. Common features of the Pueblo Revival style include projecting wooden roof beams or “vigas”, which sometimes serve no structural purpose, “corbels”, curved, often stylized, beam supports and “latillas” which are peeled branches or strips of wood laid across the tops of vigas to create a foundation (usually supporting dirt or clay) for a roof. Entrance doors in adobe surrounds are a core Santa Fe Style tradition.

Karin Beuerlein from HGTV says, “This type of home, immensely popular in the Southwest, has deeper roots than almost any other type of American architecture. It developed in New Mexico and Arizona around the turn of the 20th century, borrowing from the simple, sleek multifamily structures erected by the Pueblo Indians starting in 750 A.D. Most modern versions of pueblo architecture (also called pueblo revival) have a heavy Spanish influence.”

Pueblo RevivalThe Adobe Brick Technique
Adobe bricks (mud bricks) are made of earth with a fairly high clay content and straw. If produced manually the earth mix is cast in open moulds onto the ground and then left to dry out. Adobe bricks are only sun-dried, not kiln-fired. When used for construction they are laid up into a wall using an earth mortar. Before drying out, the finished walls are smoothed down. Often a clay render is applied as a surface coating.

Pueblo Revival2Roof Materials
The flat roofs were inspired by the simple structures of the Pueblo Indians.

The traditional adobe roofs are constructed using a mixture of soil/clay, water, sand and organic materials. The mixture is then formed and pressed into wood forms, producing rows of dried earth bricks that would then be laid across a support structure of wood and plastered into place with more adobe.

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A 1926 Adobe Construction Home In Phoenix, AZ Arcadia Neighborhood – Photo by Laura Boyajian All Rights Reserved

Depending on the materials available, a roof may be assembled using wood or metal beams to create a framework to begin layering adobe bricks. Depending on the thickness of the adobe bricks, the framework has been performed using a steel framing and a layering of a metal fencing or wiring over the framework to allow an even load as masses of adobe are spread across the metal fencing like cob and allowed to air dry accordingly. This method was demonstrated with an adobe blend heavily impregnated with cement to allow even drying and prevent cracking.

History
Adobe brick building is an ancient technique common in the Americas and the Middle East. The oldest structures in earth dating back to at least 8300 BC are in adobe, as well as some buildings around 900 years old, which are still in use. “Adobe” is the Spanish name derived from the older Arabic “al-tob”, dating from the Moorish occupation of Spain.

Advantages of Adobe Bricks
Making use of Adobe bricks is probably one of the simplest forms of earth building. Adobe walls have a number of advantages and relatively few disadvantages.

As with other forms of earth construction, adobe bricks are a fireproof, durable yet biodegradable, non-toxic building material which provide sufficient thermal mass to buildings to ensure excellent thermal performance. Other benefits include low sound transmission levels through walls and a general feeling of solidity and security.

With adequate supervision this technique is highly suitable for owner builders, as no costly tools or equipment are necessary and the essential know-how can be easily acquired on a training workshop and through hands-on experiences.

One of the biggest advantages of the Adobe system is that it allows the individual units or bricks to shrink before they are placed in the wall. The risk of extensive shrinkage and cracking, which would otherwise occur in soils of high clay content in a large monolithic wall, is prevented.

The bricks can be cast from a wider range of soils and can cope with a higher clay content than is suitable for in-situ techniques.

Due to the production process and the nature of clay, Adobe bricks have good water resistance. Nevertheless it is very important to provide adequate weather protection of the earth walls, especially in exposed situations. This is normally done with the provision of adequate eaves.

The small Adobe units provide great flexibility in the design and construction of earth buildings. Adobe bricks can be easily cut for fitting and can be provided with holes for reinforcing and services.

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A 1926 Adobe Construction Home In Phoenix, AZ Arcadia Neighborhood – Photo by Laura Boyajian – All Rights Reserved

The traditional Pueblo Indian structures that are echoed in pueblo revival style complement their natural environment. Typically made of mud, their low profile and thick walls protect their occupants and regulate indoor temperatures in the harsh desert surroundings. Pueblo-style architects borrowed some of these ideas to create a look that paid homage to the region’s history.

Key Elements

Earthy materials. Pueblo-style homes are sometimes made of traditional adobe (sun-dried mud), but can also be built with concrete, stucco or mortar.

Massive wood components. Heavy doors, ceiling beams and porch posts are a striking counterpart to the smooth walls typical of pueblo architecture. The timbers used are called vigas and they’re usually exposed at the ends.

Enclosed courtyards. As traditional Indian Pueblos were organized around a common space, pueblo homes often incorporate a sheltered courtyard or patio.

Rounded exteriors with square windows. These reflect the look of the traditional Indian Pueblos.

Flat or sloping roofs with parapets. Parapets are low walls that extend above the roofline; drainage canals called canales sometimes extend through them.

Famous Examples

La Fonda Hotel. A Santa Fe landmark, built in 1922, not only serves as a prominent example of pueblo architecture, but also features the paintings, trimwork and decor of local artisans.

Canyon Road homes. Santa Fe’s Canyon Road, home to its fabled arts colony, boasts numerous examples of the city’s signature pueblo homes. Because of its dedication to preserving its historic pueblo style, Canyon Road was named one of the American Planning Association’s “10 Great Streets for 2007.”

Las Acequias Ranch. A farmhouse north of Santa Fe is one of the hallmark creations of noted pueblo revival architect John Gaw Meem.

Practically Speaking: Hassles and Headaches

If you live in a hot climate, the eco-friendly advantages of a pueblo-style structure are hard to beat. The thick walls are superb insulation against the elements.

However, the flat roof common to pueblo-style homes can be prone to leakage. Older pueblo homes built with plaster rather than drywall are less susceptible to rotting, but they also may be built without the drainage aids that modern building codes now require. If you’re considering purchasing a pueblo home, don’t skip the inspection!

Lifestyle

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Back Patio of an Historic Phoenix Adobe Home Built in 1926 in Arcadia Neighborhood – Photo by Laura Boyajian – All Rights Reserved

The pueblo style arose not only as a tip of the hat to Native American cultures, but also as a way to brave the searing heat of the Southwest with style. Architects designed sheltered courtyards to promote a casual lifestyle that could incorporate the outdoors for relaxing and entertaining, no matter what the weather.

Many people find the pattern and texture of Adobe walls very attractive.

 

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