Situated in a sunbaked valley in north central New Mexico and continuously inhabited for 1,000 years, the community and architecture of Taos Pueblo exemplify the enduring genius of the Pueblo people. This remarkable adobe ensemble has retained its traditional forms, ceremonial structures, and individual homes, built side-by-side and in layers through the use of common walls. The traditional materials used are from sacred tribal lands and applied using 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.
A collaboration with the Taos Tribal Council to develop a model restoration project
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 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. In 2010 the pueblo was added to the World Monuments Watch. We collaborated with the Taos Tribal Council to develop a model restoration project at the pueblo as well as document the site. With the consent of the tribal office, we engaged CyArk to undertake laser scanning of the majority of the pueblo. The high resolution images and scans resulting from CyArk’s work are available for education, outreach, planning, and site interpretation, as well as for developing conservation plans.
In 2011, the Taos Pueblo Preservation Program received an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development so additional workers could be hired and trained in traditional construction techniques for conservation work, and workshops held for pueblo homeowners that focus on the maintenance of traditional adobe homes. Ten trainees, led by two supervisors, learned traditional construction methods while rebuilding most of an 11-unit house, which had been in a state of near-collapse. The units were re-occupied by their original families.
The members, elders, and Tribal Council of the Pueblo are focused on teaching traditional methods to the community that can be applied throughout 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.