Scale and Proportion

Taos' historic district, like much of New Mexico, has two MAJOR components that determine much of how its buildings appear. First, it is based on an architectural form that is exteremely limited and specific in design - adobe. Historically, adobe walls which extended more that 10' vertically MUST be at least two wythes of adobe thick. In even taller structures, like the San Francisco church at Ranchos, the walls are at least 3 wythes (24 inches or more) thick and have massive buttressing at the corners to accept the load of the roof as it pushes out on the walls. Also, the church is always the tallest structure in old New Mexican towns.

The second determinant of the size of buildings on the historic district is the length of available vigas at the time of construction and the ability to transport them. In my own home off Padre Martinez, the length of vigas they could get into town in 1810 was 15', and that's how deep all our rooms are (15' minus the wall widths). The vigas are exposed to the rooms, and sometimes to the porches and exterior walls.

Lessons Learned: To design in keeping with this understanding of scale means that buildings in the historic district should not be taller than churches - so no more than 3 stories tall, should be constructed of adobe*, and should be built in keeping with the capacity of their roof structure, which should be exposed. The width of the building should not be vastly different than its neighbors.

*It is our opinion that non-adobe structures that look like real adobe structures are sad. They use more materials than they should, offer no real historic value, require extensive mechanical systems to operate comfortably, and disrespect the traditions of wall depth and positive/negative space balance of our historic buildings. We should never glue on parts of buildings that were once purposeful to make something modern appear more historic. This is a waste of resources and trivializes the value of our remaining historic buildings.