Twelve planning lessons from Taos and the Taos Pueblo

The following are ten+ planning-related lessons learned from our visits to the 400+ year old Town of Taos and the 1000+ year old Taos Pueblo. The beauty of this area is beyond mere words — a good reason why the arts are so strong here. In a state (New Mexico) and region (Southwest/Four Corners) that filled with scenic wonders, the Taos area is among the most magnificent and breathtaking.

As you will see below, Taos has long been a place of uniqueness and innovation. The sense of harmony with our planet is palpable here. Likely, the greatest challenge facing the Taos region is maintaining a symbiotic relationship that supports the human population and safeguards the natural elements that shape this spectacular place.



Taos Pueblo’s famous multi-story Hlauuma (north house)
  • The 1,000+ year-old Taos Pueblo was constructed and has been maintained in a manner that adheres to many of the best planning principles long-before planning was ever established as a profession. It’s another example (along with cliff dwellings, longhouses, and mounds) of how indigenous peoples have been experts in planning cities, towns, and villages for more than a millennia.
  • It was an honor to be warmly welcomed as a guest within the Taos Pueblo sovereign nation. Each time we visit an indigenous community, it is hoped that by showing due respect for their customs, culture, beliefs, and laws we can help offset to some small degree, the unforgivable prior actions taken against Native societies by the United States, Spain, and other entities.
  • More places in the United States should apply for historic/cultural/ecological protection under UNESCO World Heritage Site status, as is the case for the Taos Pueblo. Unfortunately, the United Nations is too often used as a political football by certain pundits/politicos. As a result, many world heritage-eligible sites within the United States remain unnecessarily at risk from political and/or economic whims.
  • America’s climate crisis would be far less acute if more post-Columbian Americans had simply sought guidance from our indigenous neighbors on the best ways to respect Mother Earth, strike an ecological balance, and live sustainably based on our planet’s carrying capacity.
Greater World Earthship Community – Source:
  • Modern-day pioneers just outside of Taos have adopted sustainable living concepts through establishment of the Greater World Earthship Community — the nation’s largest legal off-grid residential subdivision. Upon buildout, this planet-harmonious community will eventually include 130 Earthships (see photos above and below).
  • As the home of multi-story pueblo construction, as well as the birthplace of Earthship communities and the of Biotecture Academy, Taos has been and continues to be a global leader in cutting-edge planning, architecture, and sustainable design concepts.
  • For a remarkable day trip that introduces the visitor to varied cultures and ecosystems, it would be hard to find one that tops the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway (see photo below).
Approaching Taos along the High Road to Taos Scenic Byway
  • As was the case with the Taos Society of Artists in the early 20th century, one can find unlimited sources of inspiration in the Taos region. This becomes clearly evident through the many fine works of artistry, handiwork, and craftsmanship created here. A diverse community blessed with a vast range of skillsets is bound to excel.
San Francisco de Asis Church in Ranchos de Taos
  • The richness, beauty, practicality, and longevity of adobe-style architecture cannot be understated. If only more modern styles had such long-lasting durability, we could lower our dependence on limited natural resources while also reducing our carbon footprint.
Historic Taos Plaza
  • The Historic Taos Plaza is a lovely and enriching example of how bringing people together in a central gathering place benefits the greater community at large (see photo above).
  • Public-private partnerships in Taos have created one of the most unique and convenient air transportation options in the United States through the establishment of Taos Air. Other tourist-oriented rural communities may want to study Taos Air as a possible mechanism for re-establishing air service.
Red Willow Creek with Pueblo Peak in the background
  • As noted in the prologue, few communities on the planet have been blessed with the awe-inspiring visual aesthetics that were bestowed upon this “place of the red willows.” As the Taos region continues to thrive, it will be imperative for all stakeholders from across the region to gather and work cooperatively in order to assure that this place of exceptional beauty remains that way forever.
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