The next generation of adobe house builders in the village of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, Corrientes province, NE Argentina

Adobe houses are an example of vernacular architecture, meaning housing that wasn’t actually designed by an architect at all, but was built from natural materials found in abundance locally by workers with no formal education in the building arts. These days we don’t call it primitive architecture out of respect for the intelligence required to adapt and use what you have.

There is irony in the fact that modern architects frequently borrow ideas from the vernacular, or local constructions, incorporating the latest modern technology when creating the traditional “look” of the end product. And so it is that in Colonia Carlos Pellegrini, where architectural design is frequently on display, the village building codes require that only local building materials be used with traditional methods, thereby assuring that no well-heeled investors come in and build gaudy McMansions that clearly do not blend with the landscape and look of the village.

So buildings are only allowed to be one story high, and local blocks or adobe may be used for the walls, and the roofs can only be made of the corrugated metal in evidence everywhere. All of this is good for the villagers, most of whom could not get financing for anything ostentatious. The more elaborate projects do employ architects, but simple and inexpensive homes are often built with adobe, or houses made with mud, boards, and wire by the men, women, and children who will live in them. They build as they have time, and there are no mortgages to pay. In this manner, and over time, someone with the usual plot of land can add dwellings, one at a time, until they have a motel (posada) finished. The education begins early and everyone uses whatever they have handy, beginning of course, with the ubiquitous mud and espartillo grass.


The new apprentices were enthusiastic as they piled into the transport. The 4WD vehicle should get us through the marshy fields and ant hill city to meet the two local experts, who are bringing the bags of flexible grass that is so essential to the project.


Apparently the shortcut to the construction site is through this field of ant hills. Since the ants would drown if they dug down into the marsh, they build colonies above ground and these colonies are remarkably equidistant from each other. Humans can’t seem to live that close together without killing each other, but the ants seem to manage it. I am unaware of any ant wars.


These two men are the grass gatherers, which they cut and bring in large bundles on their backs to the construction site.