Diverse design, similar sustainability
by Lauren Seale
TAOS SEEMS TO THRIVE on breaking the norm. Its roots run deep in history, its culture is as distinct as its landscape. From adobe abodes dotting the mesa to chic chalets peppering the mountain side, one thing is for sure – this place isn’t average, and neither are its dwellings.
One may wonder why driving through the countryside you’re bound to see houses ranging from classic to contemporary to unconventional, all within the same vicinity. What gives?
According to Leif Krosby, real estate agent with Engel & Völkers in Taos, the reason behind this is quite simple, “There’s a variety of housing types in Taos, including adobe, wood frame, rastra, straw bale and earthships, due to few restrictions. There are also very few neighborhoods with strict guidelines and [homeowner associations].
But while the variety of styles may be vast, there is one thing that many homes in Taos share in common.
“Many people are mindful of energy consumption and architecture, and we have a long tradition for the architecture that derives from that ambition,” says Alix Henry of Henry Architects.
According to Henry, passive solar pueblo-style homes are one of the most popular styles in the area. Inspired by the Native architecture in the area, this style is highly insulated, a great fit when designing an energy-conscious build.
“Our remote location and exceptional solar capacity, along with broad temperatures throughout the year and on a daily basis, means that passive solar buildings are a popular approach to architecture,” says Henry. ”It is easier to make these buildings work when you have the amount of sun we do.”
On the opposite end of the design spectrum, in the area that is anything but traditional is the ever-eclectic earthship. Originating in Taos in the 1970s, earthships offer off-the-grid living for those looking for a more sustainable lifestyle.
Made of natural and recycled materials such as reclaimed wood, glass bottles, tires and cardboard, this “biotecture” – a concept coined by innovative Taos earthship founder/builder Michael Reynolds – offers one-of-a-kind living. Reminiscent of a Tim Burton movie, the unique and eco-friendly design of an earthship is the quintessential representation of the thoughtful quirkiness of Taos.
And for those residents who prefer a home base somewhere in the middle of traditional and uncommon – Zero E Design is a local design company offering contemporary and sleek designs that can be customized to any personal aesthetic. With a focus on zero energy and carbon emissions, its modern designs greatly contrast the classic pueblo or eccentric earthship styles of their neighbors while maintaining the same common goal of sustainability.
“Taos has a long tradition in environmentally friendly homes,” says Joaquin Karcher, founder of Zero E Design, “starting with the pueblo, to the solar adobe movement from the ’80s and ’90s, to earthships and beyond. It attracts people who hold the environment dear. There is a sense of place and belonging here that is very special and I think that is important to Taoseños.”