The Sgraffito-Adobe technique in the Puna Argentina

Arriving in the village Yavi, province of Jujuy late afternoon from la Quiaca, nearby the border between Argentina and Bolivia, it was quite cold and nobody’s around. 


Mari Sol's dog Mancha looking for us


When we decided to stay in a family house to better understand the Native Andes Culture & Life a dog found us en la Calle Reconquista and took us to his home where Mari Sol greeted us with a smile. 

I immediately understood that her home is one of the dominant things that keeps me here longer and somewhere in the heart of my physical passivity (due to the lack of oxygen at this altitude -3442 m.) lies a desire to experience the link between people, nature and heritage in the most authentic way. I felt a strong desire to leave to this place something meaningful, using my skills of conservator-restorer.

Then I decided to offer my job to create an  ornamental decoration with an inscription on the front main wall to indicate that this is the best place to stay in Yavi.


This is a step-by-step approach to the Sgraffito-Adobe technique:


The family hotel is first of all the “Casa de Mari Sol” and it is in her home that she gives guests her warm welcome. That’s why in the text of the inscription sounds like that: “Bienvenidos a la Casa de Mari Sol” (welcome at Mari Sol’s home).




It was important to find an appropriate text character and our point of reference was the 17th century documents related to the local Spanish colonial history which are preserved Museo Histórico Arqueológico y Biblioteca of the Casa del Marqués.




The local people live in houses constructed of umbacked earth and the entire village of Yavi is built of adobe. Adobe is the name for a traditional building method in which a sub-soil is mixed with straw and water to create blocks and final coatings.

The presence of straw has the effect of reinforcing the material increasing its resistance to failure.


Sun-dried Adobe bricks used in hot dry climates


I wished to create an external wall decoration making an inscription with a specific decoration techniques that I would call Sgraffito-Adobe. This is my personal interpretation of the Renaissance sgraffito technique used in façade decoration combined with the Adobe coating technique using the local natural materials. 


Cutting the straw for the preparation of the first layer of adobe


It consists in one layer made of earth, dark pigments, and straw, which has the property of binding the soil together into workable lumps, thus facilitating its placement on the wall.


Mixing the ingredients under the supervision of Mancha



The coating of adobe mud mixed with pigments is applied overall


The second and final layer is made of a lime coating made from hydrated lime and then scratching so as to produce an outline drawing.


Final white coat made of lime wash


Transferring preparatory drawing placing the paper on the surface of the fresh adobe


Scratching away the final coat




This story is about places and people which are inseparable and the combination is part of the intrinsic value of these uncontaminated landscapes of the Puna Argentina. I am very thankful to Mari Sol and her family to offer me the possibility to feel a part of the relationship between people, the land and the built environment and enhance the tradition of earthen architecture.

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