Arid Lands Newsletter No. 47, May 2000
Desert Architecture for a New Millenium

About the cover image

Thumbnail of ALN 47 cover image

The cover photograph for this issue shows a rammed earth wall that is part a new house for a Gila River Pima (or Akimel O'odham) family. The photo shows how ribs of saguaro cactus (Carnegeia gigantea) have been embedded into the wall. Saguaro ribs were traditionally used in the walls of Gila River Pima houses, and the family for whom this home was constructed wanted the new house to contain elements of these traditional construction techniques. In this case, however, the use of the cactus ribs ornamental, not structural. The ribs are laid against the formwork one by one as tamping of the walls progresses, and are anchored into the rammed earth with 3-inch (1.2-cm) drywall screws. Following removal of the forms, one side of the ribs is revealed by brushing them with a wire brush to subtract the covering surface.

The house in question was constructed by University of Arizona School of Architecture students and professors, working together with a construction crew from the Gila River Community. The photograph was taken by Ms. Stacy Kalina, 5th year architecture student at the University of Arizona. For further details, please see the accompanying article Rammed earth constructions: Trans-cultural research in the Sonoran Desert in this issue of ALN.

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