The Adobe Project

The Adobe Project documents the gradual disappearance of adobe dwellings in New Mexico, as this building material for homes, typical of the area for centuries, loses its relevance in the 21st Century. I have taken well over 1200 photographs since June of 2012, and I am continuing to photograph buildings and remains of buildings made of this material.

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Old adobe casita, June 2012

Adobe, made of earth and organic material such as straw, and then formed into bricks which are sun dried, is found worldwide and has been a typical construction material in the Southwest United States, including New Mexico, for centuries. Some of the well known landmarks in New Mexico include Coronado State Monument; the Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States; and many of the historic churches, such as the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales. The structures recognized as historically important are being maintained through governmental support or by a community effort, such as the annual “mudding day” at some of the historic churches.

Adobe has been a “dirt cheap” construction material for homes as well as for public structures, and these dwellings have given New Mexico communities much of their character. But it is a high maintenance construction material. Because the bricks are sun dried and not fired, they are unstable, shrinking and swelling with changing water content. Adobe requires constant and time consuming maintenance and repair, if it is not to wash and/or blow away.
Regular maintenance was not a problem when daily activities of life were close to home; it was simply a part of life. With urbanization and the growth of jobs away from the home, maintenance becomes a chore for which there may be little time, energy, or money. Without constant and regular care, the adobe dwelling deteriorates, and is eventually abandoned.

Abandoned adobe dwellings dot the landscape. Either by natural forces or demolition, the dwellings are disappearing. Because builders are now using materials that simulate the old adobe, the casual observer may not be aware that the true adobe dwellings are disappearing. This project documents some of these dwellings before they disappear completely.

Going. . .

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Two abandoned adobes shortly before scheduled demolition

. . .going. . .
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Large adobe demolished down to the original one room adobe, around which the remaining structure had been built

. . .gone!
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Demolition complete except for cleanup

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, adobe to mud” – Tim Price, 2012

Some links to more information on this building material:

Preservation

Building Homes

The Adobe Factory

Quentin Wilson