Tag Archives: Wupatki

Before ‘Architects’: Tuzigoot

Tuzigoot is an ancient village or pueblo built by a culture known as the Sinagua. The pueblo consisted of 110 rooms including second and third story structures. The first buildings were built around A.D. 1000. The Sinagua were agriculturalists with trade connections that spanned hundreds of miles. The people left the area around 1400.
Monumental Arizona, KAET

The ruins of Tuzigoot (‘crooked river’ in Apache, but misspelled) offer a glimpse of how people lived on this land before Europeans arrived. Their architecture is one that aesthetically I prefer to most others, and seems beautifully adapted both to climate and to the land itself. Here the Pueblo crowns the hill and follows its downward curving. It probably would have been plastered, not quite such an affect of stone rising from stone. Beautiful.



The walls are very thick, a facing of stone filled with rubble. Cooler in the summer, easier to keep warm in the winter, especially clustered together rather than heated and cooled individually.




The life of the pueblos exemplify many of the themes of Soleri’s arcology in some ways, though more limited in the number of people who could be supported by this fragile ecosystem and thus still by necessity falling short of his ‘urban effect’. The lived experience of them also recasts Wright‘s ideal of minimising the distance between inside/outside in a more interesting way I think. These rooms are dark, enclosed spaces entered from the roof, perfect for storage, privacy, warmth. But most of life was lived outside, communally, in the plazas and workspaces on the roofs. A good way to live. This is Tuzigoot in the heat of summer, when the lushness of the Verde Valley is visible:


It was built beautifully, even by a people still engaged in a longer-term migration.

Another example is Besh Ba Gowah, built by what archeologists refer to as the Salado culture near Globe:

Besh Ba Gowah

This was built surrounded by a wall, with a long entry passage, reflecting a need for defense, but a similar communal life shared mostly outside in the plazas and on rooftops:

Besh Ba Gowah Entrance

One of my favourite places is Wupatki, an area of multiple buildings, occupied by the cultural phases of what archeologists call the Anasazi and the Singua cultures and perhaps others. Here it curves around and incorporates the living stone of the valley:




Some of the structures are playful with its use of stone, something else that recalls Taliesin West to me.

Citadel Pueblo

And then there are the cliff dwellings, like the misnamed Montezuma’s Castle:

Montezuma Castle

and the Gila Cliff Dwellings (though these are just across the border of New Mexico, I know). They sit beautifully in these caves, most likely a result of a harsher environment, more aggression amongst the people, but perfectly suited to their defensible position. That is the key to all of these buildings. They are perfectly suited.



Other Architecture in the Desert posts:
Arcosanti | Taliesin West | Mining Zombies, Cadavers and Ghosts