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A Series on Design Styles : Early North America- Pueblo

I'm starting this series off with a regional style that predates Christopher Columbus : Pueblo (also called Southwest or Adobe.) I delighted in researching this style in college, so I am pulling my notes of storage and re-reading all the books to write this entry.

This style started out as communal dwellings for the Native American tribes (Navajo, Apache, Hopi) through the southwest region of today's United States: Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Colorado, and parts of Texas. Built from the 9th through 14th centuries, some structures still stand today, such as Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.

The first structures were entered from the roof and dug out from the ground, but as surface structures- the pueblos, became more prolific, these early area were kept for kivas, which I'll describe in a bit. Pueblos are known for their large, terraced appearance on the outside and inside at multiple rooms with many functions. As the material was mud-brick, or adobe, the number of rooms was small. The walls would taper from two feet wide at the bottom to one foot wide at the top. Upper stories and levels were accessed by ladders, aiding in defense as well as keeping spaces warm or cool depending on time of day and season. Interior rooms served as storage mostly, as they did not absorb and retain the daytime heat the same as an exterior room would. The roof of these adobe structures was layers of timber: cedar beams (or a similar hardwood) supported thinner saplings which were then covered with grass mats - maybe cloth to keep out bugs - and finally a mud and a layer of adobe plaster. Openings were likely covered with grass mats, woven blankets or animal skins to keep out bad weather. Native Americans even utilized the mineral selenite to create windows that allowed only light to penetrate.

Earlier I had mentioned a part of these structures, the kiva, this was a ceremonial chamber, but just like other spaces in a pueblo, it had multiple uses. Kivas served as school rooms, areas for weaving and storytelling, in addition to their spiritual purposes. Inside a kiva, there were some of the first built-ins: a fire pit, with a separate shaft for ventilation, and seating along the walls- also made of mud-bricks.

By necessity, these structures were plain as far as exterior details, but inside decor could be found within the peoples' every day objects: basket, rugs and pottery. Navajo rugs are still sought today for their aesthetic qualities to decorate all types of homes. Baskets and pottery, while utilitarian pieces, gave rise to their decorative arts and served multiple rolls, just like the homes these peoples lived in. Turquoise, while decorative in many respects, served the Natives' belief that it warded off evil. Fireplaces that were not for ceremonial places (like in a kiva) were often built into corners so the heat could radiate throughout a space without barriers; cooking was done outside in a separate fireplace/pit.

Modern interpretations of Pueblo can be viewed throughout the Four Corners region of the United States. They include hard surface flooring - though carpet may be present in bedrooms, and often times there will be exposed wood around window and door openings. Walls are left natural toned or painted white- and some may have niches built in to feature artwork (baskets, pottery, sculptures), but windows are a little more modern, and may feature exterior wood shutters.

As time moved on and the missions came, the building material was borrowed for building the missions. Out of Pueblo, but with heavy Spanish influence, came Mission Style, which I'll detail next time.