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Adobe Architecture

The Spanish colonials and the Indians of the Southwest shared an affinity for building with adobe. The basic materials used to make it were common to both continents. In addition, it had unique qualities that made it an ideal building material for arid climates. During the day, adobe absorbed the heat of the sun, leaving the house interior much cooler than the outside. As the outside air cooled in the evening, the walls reflected the stored heat into the houses, taking the chill off the night air. Adobe was also an infinitely adaptable construction medium: it could be shaped in many forms to meet a wide range of social, cultural, and physical housing needs.

Most Pueblos were attracted to certain features of the Spanish tradition. They began to mold their own bricks, using the Spanish wooden form. An exception were the Hopi, who until this century held onto their stone and mud-masonry tradition. Nearly all the Pueblo peoples adopted the Spanish fireplace and chimney. Before this, Indian homes had been heated by central fire hearths; smoke exited from the ladder hatch where one entered through the roof. The Indians placed the Spanish- style fireplace in the middle of a wall or at corners where it seemed to blister out above the floor. They also adopted the beehiveshaped outdoor ovens to let their own unleavened corn bread, formerly peeled from a heated stone into parchment-like rolls, rise into baked loaves; these ovens became fixtures of the Pueblo village.

But adobe gave way before the demand for lighter, synthetic building materials. Today's adobe makers are small-scale home builders with a passion for the aesthetics and history of the material as well as its ancient virtues of providing coolness and warmth in their arid land. They have innovated new techniques of brick making and its use, even building solar adobes. Pueblo architectural traditions are very much alive today. When plastering takes place at Hopi villages, it occurs in the old way, especially for the ritual upkeep of their underground kivas.

The 1981 Festival program, supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, included demonstrations of building an adobe house and oven, making adobe bricks, cooking Southwestern Native American foods, and narrative sessions.

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