Old Adobe – Kuaua Pueblo

Old adobe – Kuaua Pueblo at Coronado State Monument, just a little north of Albuquerque and just a little west of I-25, is an example of old adobe construction. Built around AD 1300, Coronado encountered this pueblo when he entered the Southwest in AD 1540 searching for the famed Seven Cities of Gold (he was looking for the wrong thing 🙂 )

Coronado State Monument
Coronado State Monument

The major pueblos are often thought of as the Western Pueblos (Hopi, Zuni, Acoma) and the Rio Grande Pueblos, and then further characterized by language groups. In New Mexico, there are living Pueblos along the Rio Grande from Isleta to Taos, and archaeological sites are numerous in the same – and probably somewhat larger – area. It makes sense that people would locate along this major Southwestern waterway. The puebloan peoples were agricultural, and a river location is great for a lot of reasons.

Visitors today can see spectacular views of the river, as well as the Sandia Mountains looking toward the southeast, from Kuaua. This image was taken in the morning, and the mountains are essentially shading themselves. At sunset, the mountains are a totally different color. Often I cannot help remembering one of my old professors, Clara Lee Tanner, who would speak of the “blues, purples, and reds of the mountains and skies of the intermontane valleys of the Desert Southwest” (that was long before those colors had any political significance).

adobe pueblo site
Pueblo location along the Rio Grande River

Kuaua Pueblo was abandoned sometime in the 16th Century (relations and interactions between the pueblos and Spaniards are for discussion in another time and place). It fell into disrepair, and slowly returned to the earth, as adobe will do when not constantly maintained.

weathering adobe
Weathering adobe, returning to the earth

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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.

adobe
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.
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The Old San Ysidro Church

The Old San Ysidro Church, in Corrales, New Mexico, is an historic landmark much beloved not only by the people who live in the Village of Corrales, but also by many people throughout all of New Mexico.

Built of adobe, it requires much upkeep and maintenance to remain standing. It receives the support of residents of Corrales on the annual “mudding day,” when adobe plaster is reapplied and other repairs made. The Corrales Historical Society and Visual Arts Council hold activities throughout the year that go to help fund maintenance activities.

This image is from one of the few days I saw clouds at the Old Church, as well as one of the few times I could photograph it without cars parked in front. People have asked to purchase copies. It is available at Susan Brandt Graham Photography in a variety of print sizes, as canvas gallery wraps, and as photographic paper greeting cards.

The Old San Ysidro Church
The Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales, New Mexico

Although Corrales is a Village separate in government from Albuquerque, geographically they are connected. If you live in Albuquerque and have never visited the Old San Ysidro Church, you would enjoy making the short trip to see it. If you are a visitor from out of state, consider making a visit while you are here, whether your main destination is Albuquerque, Santa Fe, or other parts of our beautiful state.

ANMPAS 2012 – Annual New Mexico Photographic Arts Show

ANMPAS 2012 – the Annual New Mexico Photographic Arts Show – will open this year on December 1 and run through December 28. As in previous years, the show will be held in the Fine Arts Building of EXPO NM. This is juried show of New Mexico photographers.

The Opening Reception is Saturday, December 1, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. The show will be open to the public December 2 – 28, from 10 – 5 daily. The show will be closed Tuesday and December 24 and 25.

This year I have four images in the show, one shown as a single framed print, and the other three shown as a framed triptych. All are from the Adobe in New Mexico series. They are just a small part of a large, ongoing study of the disappearance of adobe structures in New Mexico. Adobe was once the defining construction material in New Mexico. It was highly functional and “dirt cheap” at one time, but adobe requires regular maintenance such as yearly “mudding.”

Adobe is rapidly being replaced by more modern and longer lasting construction materials. Abandoned adobes dot the New Mexico landscape. Many are unstable and dangerous. Some will be demolished, as the one depicted in all four images in the ANMPAS show. Others will gradually weather away and return to the earth from which they came.

Over time, it is highly likely that the only adobe structures that will remain will be those that are cared for and maintained by communities, because it is simply too expensive and time consuming for individuals. Examples of adobe structures currently being maintained are the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales, New Mexico, and also the historic Martinez House in Corrales.

Abandoned on the Bosque #2, ANMPAS
Abandoned on the Bosque #2. In the background is a large adobe with attached mobile home. That adobe, as well as a smaller one, were scheduled for demolition in 36 hours.
The Original one Room Adobe, ANMPAS
The Original one Room Adobe. No one knows the date of construction of this adobe. By the middle of the second day, this is what was left of the adobe structure with attached mobile home seen above.
Demolition of the Original Room Progressing, ANMPAS
Demolition of the Original Room Progressing. As you can see, this phase was very dusty. I had to have my camera professionally cleaned after the week spent photographing the demolition of two abandoned adobes on the bosque.
Original Room Nearly Demolished, ANMPAS
The adobe construction, with the adobe bricks and plaster are clearly seen in this image

I hope to see many of you from the Albuquerque area at the ANMPAS show this December.

Over time, as I work through the more than 1,000 images I have so far on adobes, abandoned adobes, maintenance of adobes, and demolition of adobes, I’ll be showing more of the Adobe in New Mexico story here and elsewhere.

Images for purchase may be seen at Susan Brandt Graham Photography.