The Suitcase Lady


August 16, 2011, 11:06 pm

  • It’s an architectural icon.
  • It’s been painted and photographed thousands of times by artists including Georgia O’Keeffe, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand and John Marin.
  • It’s the back of this building, the apse and the buttresses, that gets all the attention.

If you guessed the Ranchos de Taos Church in New Mexico, you’re right. Officially known as San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, this adobe structure was built between 1772 and 1816 on the plaza of Rancho de Taos, and it’s a magnet for creative spirits.

The solid, curved adobe masses and four foot thick walls are visual proof that “less is more”. In addition, New Mexico’s thin air and brilliant sun conspire to create dramatic light and shadow play on the surfaces.

This iconic church is found on the Low Road to Taos. Don’t be mislead by the word “low”. The road is low only in comparison to the other route to Taos which is appropriately called the High Road.

Adobe may be the earth’s most perfect building material. It is the earth. Mix dirt with straw and water, form bricks, let them dry in the desert sun and stack. When the bricks are all in place, cover the walls with “rainbows” of adobe to make smooth surfaces.

An abandoned adobe structure naturally biodegrades back into the earth, the ultimate in recycling. The Rancho de Taos Church is, hopefully, hundreds of years from recycling. With luck, its pristinely maintained walls will provide inspiration for many more generations of artists.


Photo Credit: Diane Sheehan

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