Project Old Is Gold: Parts of a Historic Building & a Scavenger Hunt

I live in the southwest, and my favorite building type here is ADOBE.

Adobe, Spanish for mudbrick.

Adobe bricks are easy to make, and easy to construct with.  They are durable, yet biodegradable.  As a structure, they are largely fireproof and water resistant, offer excellent thermal efficiency and low sound transmission levels.  There are so many advantages to building with adobe… but just like strawbale, rammed earth and other historic building types, they can be very hard to get past modern building codes.  That is an issue for another blog post…

To break it down, adobe building design is very regional, and shifted as the southwestern United States went from being a Spanish to an U.S. territory.  Tucson has a unique stock of adobe buildings, constructed from the 1840s to the 1890s.  These Sonoran rowhouses are amazingly simple and efficient.  Here at Globe Trotting Building Hugger we have even visited the Casa Cordova, a wonderful example of this building type.  But today, I just wanted to give a quick overview of basic adobe construction.  You can see the basic Sonoran construction, and the most common changes or additions that were made when the transition to Territorial Adobe was made.

So what to look for to identify a Sonoran rowhouse?

On the outside:

  • One-story
  • Façade aligns with street (no offset or front yard)
  • Canales, roof drainage pipes
  • Vigas, round roof timbers

On the inside:

  • Zaguans, straight central hallways
  • High ceilings
  • Latilla ceilings, traditionally peel branch or stick laid on top of the vigas

NOW, Time for a Scavenger Hunt!!!

Please post your favorite adobe building!  I can be here in the southwest or anywhere on the planet you have found one (mud brick buildings are historically as common as, well, dirt!)  Tag me on Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #ProjectOldIsGold.

Interested in learning more about adobe construction?  We attended a family-friendly workshop at Valley of the Moon!  Valley of the Moon has a historic adobe house on site, along with the wonderful (mostly concrete) enchanted storybook land.  It is a site worth visiting if you haven’t done so yet, and I look forward to writing more about them in the future.  They offer some wonderful historic tours, along with preservation workshops.  Check out their website for upcoming events!

adobe workshop

Interested in exploring more about the rich architectural history of Tucson?  Check out A Guide to Tucson’s Historic Neighborhoods for a great overview of these houses and where to find them!