Uniquely New Mexico: old adobes, week of many observances across cultures of visiting spirits, and especially of Day of the Dead with Albuquerque’s – so far, not commercialized – Marigold Parade, Muertos y Marigolds. Several years ago, during more than one “photographic excursion,” Tim Price and I photographed a lot of old adobes, and Laurie sketched them. Those images sat around for a while, as did some images from a couple of Marigold Parades. I don’t remember exactly when I decided to make some composites. I do remember I had a lot of fun playing. My son really likes the series, so I decided to revive a few of the images. The Gallery, Spirits of the Old Adobes, is at my portfolio site. This seemed an appropriate week to share the images.
Adobe has been a long-used building material in New Mexico. As noted before, many adobe structures are weathering away, because lifestyles have changed and people no longer have the time to spend on the required maintenance.
Adobe is beautiful, and many ways have been and are being tried to create more stable adobe. This adobe wall shows two things – the adobe bricks are not placed on the ground, but instead on top of a cement foundation, and the wall is “capped” with something other than plain adobe. The goal of the former is to prevent absorption of water from the ground. The goal of the latter is help slow down the weathering of adobe from rain, wind, etc.
When we take a close look at that stabilized wall, however, we see that the adobe bricks are gradually weathering away, in spite of stabilization efforts.
As I have noted many times before, weathering adobe walls are commonplace in the New Mexico landscape. In spite of my awareness of this, I was surprised a couple of weekends ago when I turned a corner at the Biopark and saw this image:
Those are some major supports being used to keep a wall standing! Here is another view of those supports:
This close up view of what was covering the wall looks like stucco with cement and/or asphalt, the kind of covering that possibly kept the underlying material from breathing. I suspect the wall supports were added after this covering failed to stop the “melting” of the underlying wall, although at this time I do not know that for a fact.
Adobe is beautiful. It is “natural.” It blends into the landscape. It is “dirt cheap.” Those are just some of the reasons to love adobe as a construction material. But, and this is major, adobe requires constant maintenance.
As I have said many times before, preservation of true adobe structures requires regular and time consuming maintenance, something for which many owners of adobes have neither the time nor money. I have also talked elsewhere about the community effort that goes into maintaining the Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales, New Mexico.
Corrales, New Mexico is geographically contiguous with Albuquerque, but it is its own Village with its own unique history, governance, and pride. Main Street, Corrales, is lined with adobes – businesses and homes – in various states of repair. It is charming, and the Village intends to keep it that way.
In 2012, the Corrales Historical Society and Corrales Main Street, with the hard work of volunteers, teamed up to “mud” or replaster with adobe the old Martinez House, which sits right on Main Street in Corrales. This house is not made of adobe bricks, but rather of terrones, which are essentially squares of sod. It is closely related to adobe. The traditional mud plastering is the same. The Martinez House Project is described in detail by Mary Davis in Corrales Historical Society Newsletter.
This is the north wall, and you can see the state of the adobe. For those of you not familiar with the use of color in New Mexico, blue is frequently used in the wood and other trim of adobe structures.
This is the east wall of the Martinez House, and you can see that it sits right on the street. It has already had one coat of mud plaster applied, and Daniel Esparza is smoothing it and adding a little more plaster.
Before any “mudding” could begin, a formula for how much of what kind of earth and straw would be right had to be determined. Then, the ingredients had to be prepared and mixed.
I had known for some time that friends were planning to demolish two old adobes on their land. The process had actually been delayed for a couple of years by intervening life events that required attention first. Over the years I had taken some photos of the smaller adobe casita, but never one that I thought captured the essence of New Mexico adobes. At the beginning of summer of 2012, after some high winds had ripped parts of roofs off, creating a definite liability, friends Tim and Laurie made definite plans for the demolition of the old adobes on their land.
In June of 2012 I finally managed to make an image of the smaller adobe casita that captured what I wanted to show. The day lilies that had been lovingly planted were blooming, the wonderful light of sunset was falling on the adobe, and the beautiful old cottonwood that was both providing a foundation for the casita and at the same time threatening its walls was clearly seen. I posted this image on Facebook.
The image started a discussion that, on the one hand made me happy because people saw the charm of the adobe casita, and on the other hand made friends Tim and Laurie wonder if I were trying to “save the casita.” I began to worry I might lose a friendship over that one photo! 🙁 Images have power that sometimes we do not realize!
Not to worry, however. Tim and Laurie allowed me to spend a week in August 2012 photographing before, during, and after the demolition.
The little adobe casita was charming, even partway through demolition. This image shows the view from the front door, looking out on the brown-eyed Susans that were blooming in August, along with some of the door detail, and the adobe construction itself.
But, as charming as I found some things about the little casita, even I knew it either had to come down, or a lot of money spent to restore it.
These images inside the casita were taken 36 hours before the beginning of demolition: