Reader's Choice: Lasting Impressions By Carolyn Weber and Christina B. Farnsworth

Name: Taos Pueblo

Location: New Mexico

Year Built: 1500s and later

Architect: collective efforts of many

Why it's relevant: Built with indigenous natural resources, these structures reflect and enhance their surroundings.

"Taos Pueblo and homes in the Italian countryside" have most influenced builder Deborah Malone.

"What these areas have in common is that the buildings reflect their surroundings," says Malone, president of JP Malone Construction, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Taos Pueblo, just outside Taos, N.M., is among the oldest continuously inhabited U.S. communities; some buildings date from 1000.

Construction is mud reinforced with straw--either as sun-dried adobe bricks or "puddled mud" (the original and more ancient technique) poured in forms. Regular applications of mud-plaster have maintained the oldest buildings for more than a millennium.

Vigas, timbers from nearby mountain forests, support roofs. Latillas, smaller sticks covered with packed earth, span the vigas.

JP Malone uses some but not all of the classic materials to help its homes reflect their desert surroundings. And like the desert structures built before the age of mechanical ventilation, homes connect with their environment. Often passive solar design captures the sun's warmth in the winter and deep portales (porches) provide summer shade.

Of the historic homes, many of which Malone feels were perfect for the time, her favorite is Hearst Castle, San Simeon, Calif. "Architect Julia Morgan introduced technologies and details that were simply not being done yet," Malone says. Many of these, too, still stand the test of time.

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