Architecture: New Mexico
Taos, New Mexico
Taos Pueblo (or Pueblo de Taos) is an ancient pueblo belonging to a Tiwa-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people. The pueblos are considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States ... A reservation of 95,000 acres (38,000 ha) is attached to the pueblo, and about 4,500 people live in this area.
The pueblo was constructed in a setting backed by the Taos Mountains of the Sangre de Cristo Range. The settlement was built on either side of Rio Pueblo de Taos, also called Rio Pueblo and Red Willow Creek, a small stream that flows through the middle of the pueblo compound. Its headwaters come from the nearby mountains.
Taos Pueblo's most prominent architectural feature is a multi-storied residential complex of reddish-brown adobe having houses built very close together and stacked five or six stories high. The homes become narrower as they rise, with the roofs of each level providing the floors and terraces for those above.
The buildings at Taos originally had few windows and no standard doorways. Instead, access to rooms was through square holes in the roof that the people reached by climbing long, wooden ladders. Cedar logs (or vigas) supported roofs that had layers of branches, grass, mud, and plaster covering them. The architecture and the building materials were well suited for the rigors of the environment and the needs of the people in the Taos Valley.
The north-side Pueblo is said to be one of the most photographed and painted buildings in North America. It is the largest multistoried Pueblo structure still existing. It is made of adobe walls that are often several feet thick. Its primary purpose was for defense. Up to as late as 1900, access to the rooms on lower floors was by ladders on the outside to the roof, and then down an inside ladder. In case of an attack, outside ladders could easily be pulled up.
The homes in this structure usually consist of two rooms, one of which is for general living and sleeping, and the second of which is for cooking, eating, and storage. Each home is self-contained; there are no passageways between the houses. Taos Indians made little use of furniture in the past, but today they have tables, chairs, and beds. In the pueblo, electricity, running water, and indoor plumbing are prohibited. 1