By Bart Kaltenbach and Barbara Anschel, with photographs by Steve Fitch

La Sombra Books, 192 pages

 

Knowledgeably written, with an abundant passion for earthbuilding in all its forms, Sun Sticks & Mud is part history, part picture book and part diary. Kaltenbach and Anschel present two narratives side-by-side: The core of the book, fittingly, is in the center of the pages, while the outer regions of each page feature a travel journal that describes their adventures researching earth buildings across the Southwest.

The many stunning photographs alone make this book a delight to flip through. The book is primarily geared toward people interested in sustainably building a home, although it is structured more to inspire than instruct. The text begins with a history of earthbuilding in the Southwest, from prehistory to the modern day. To follow this, Kaltenbach and Anschel provide some advice on supplemental materials and offer their experience building with earth, along with an addendum of tips for the would-be builder.

The photography, flavored with an anthropological bent, provides a diverse exposition of the ancient and modern, the suburban and rustic, and even elegant and sometimes awkward presence of earth architecture and its imitators. Both text and photography convey an appreciation for a pure, sometimes rustic aesthetic. The book focuses mostly on small towns and rural areas. The authors take a critical attitude towards Santa Fe and its faux-adobe, stressing the value of genuine earthbuilding compared to its look-alikes.

Sun Sticks & Mud is a quality coffee-table book. It accommodates both focused reading and casual flipping-through. The book recently won the Foreword Reviews and Independent Publishers (IPPY) Book of the Year Gold Prize for Architecture.