Sunday, March 13, 2005

One Of Many Jewels In The Valley: The Owner-Built Adobe Solar Casita

SOUTH VALLEY BIKE TRAIL--Some of you may recognize this scene from that part of the trail up on the diversion channel. On the east side of the channel one finds an area referred to as the "Tour de Junkyards." On the west side of the ditch is a mixture of mobile homes and permanent structures. It is in these sorts of mixed neighborhoods...outside the city...where one is likely to find that most New Mexican of all housing structures: the owner-built adobe.

Adobe is the building media of the very rich and the very poor: only the very rich can afford to have one built for them...almost everything has to be custom made, and it is very labor-intensive. As for the very poor, well, they have the time to build one themselves...and in that case it is very, very cheap.

Much of the charm of the buildings comes from looking at the ways the builder solved whatever problems he encountered. In a commercially built house everything looks "right." In most owner-built homes, the eccentricities are largely a function of somebody without a lot of experience trying to figure out how to build it. So one gets windows at varying heights, awkward roof lines, curving floor plans, and extensive use of materials at hand. Some owner-built homes are so beautiful they might bring tears to your eyes. Some others might bring tears to your eyes for different reasons. These were not built by architects, carpenters, laborers, corporations, etc. They were built by the owner...and his night, weekends, during the summer, whenever...with practically no machinery and very few tools. I know. I built one myself.

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