Contexts Speaking: the Earthen Architecture of Two Villages

Dec 01, 2011

The maintenance of earthen structures requires a specialized knowledge attuned to the place, passed down through generations, and thus the focus on materials and methods is a clear cultural direction. Where the built environment is concerned, this method of preservation might require guidance and expertise from outsiders to initiate the process and draw out important aspects of the context, but at its root it requires knowledge from within a culture. The guidance we provided was to advocate for attention to understanding the architecture of the context. This allows knowledge about the village to include the architecture as part of the oral tradition. The Old Acoma Village was built in balance with the local environment, thus the architecture was at one time part of the local knowledge passed on through generations. Our advocacy was not so much to teach about the architecture as to help remember it through stories that were part of the oral tradition. Information passed orally included an understanding of the context along with information about maintenance of the structures. A direct link between the methods proposed for Acoma in 2007 and work done since is seen in a project carried out in the summer of 2009. Similar methods of working to build a community-based form of preservation are being used in Wanla, Ladakh, India.

Kate Wingert-Playdon (Temple University)
Dennis G. Playdon (Temple University)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
The American Institute of Architects

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