Situated in the sun-baked valley of a Rio Grande tributary and continuously inhabited for 1,000 years, the community and architecture of Taos Pueblo exemplify the enduring spirit of the Pueblo people. This remarkable adobe ensemble has retained its traditional forms and consists of ceremonial structures and individual homes, built side-by-side and in layers through the use of common walls. The traditional materials used are all cultivated from sacred tribal lands and are applied utilizing traditional techniques. In recent years doors and windows have been added, replacing some of the original ladder-accessed rooftop entries, but the historic structures of the Pueblo remain without electricity and modern plumbing, in accordance with tribal customs. As bearers of the cultural traditions of their tribe, the residents and governing council of Taos Pueblo are directly engaged in ongoing efforts to preserve the pueblo structures and the way of life that makes this vibrant community unique. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, Taos Pueblo has seen increasing visitor traffic and public curiosity about its history and practices. Growth of the nearby modern town of Taos has brought added development pressures. Tourism provides economic benefits and enhances cross-cultural understanding, but it is intricately balanced with the sovereignty and livability of the community and the sacred nature of this timeless place.
How We Helped
Since the 2010 Watch announcement, WMF has been collaborating with the Taos Tribal Council to develop a model restoration project at the pueblo as well as document the site. The restoration project integrates restoration and training at a cluster of six interconnected historic dwellings. The initiative expands upon a hands-on training and education program launched by Taos Pueblo in March 2010 that is designed to train a new generation of craftspeople in traditional skills. Through the restoration of the building, which was damaged by fire and abandoned over a decade ago, trainees will learn to restore adobe structures in accordance with national and tribal preservation standards. The project is scheduled to be completed by September 2011, by which time the adobe walls and the roofs consisting of latillas (branches used to cover the roof) and vigas (structural beams for the roof) will be restored. With the consent of the tribal office, WMF engaged CyArk to undertake laser scanning of the majority of the pueblo in 2010. The high resolution images and scans resulting from CyArk’s work can also be utilized for education, outreach, planning, and site interpretation, as well as used for developing conservation plans. In the summer of 2011, the Taos Pueblo Preservation Program received an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing andUrban Development that will be used to complement WMF's current work at the site. Additional workers will be hired and trained in traditional construction techniques for conservation work, and workshops will be held for pueblo homeowners that focus on the maintenance of traditional adobe homes. Conservation and reconstruction work on Sub-House 2, an 11-unit dwelling at the entrance to the pueblo, was completed in July 2012. Ten trainees, led by two supervisors, learned traditional construction methods while rebuilding most of the central two-story section of the building, which had been in a state of near-collapse. The units are now being re-occupied by their original families who will continue the cyclical maintenance tasks required for the building.
Why It Matters
The members, elders and Tribal Council of the Pueblo are focused on teaching traditional methods and the use of traditional materials to the community that can be applied throughout the pueblo. Once the current project is completed, the structure will be maintained regularly, and the skills learned will be applied to other buildings at the pueblo. This project exemplifies the intersection of preservation and capacity building and training that provide the local stewards of the pueblo with essential tools and resources to restore their dwellings and sustain their cultural traditions.