Sunday, March 13, 2011

No asphalt shingles in Cuenca (and a myriad of other roof-top trivia you can't live without)

Looking out our dining room window provides us with an endless view of the marvelous roofs of Cuenca, and not a single asphalt shingle roof can be found. Instead, we sees a myriad of clay roofing tiles in all kinds of earth-tone colors, with a few aluminum “tile wanna-be” roofs tossed in.

the roof-top view out of our dining room window
Many of these roofs have the traditional, rounded red-tiled roofs. On one of our tours, we learned that it was the Spanish who brought these tiles to Ecuador (roofs previously were thatched), and that the roundness was a result of laying and forming the clay around the thigh of the tile maker, who placed a mold over his leg (as he was sitting) and molded the clay to the leg mold. Needless to say, thighs are no longer used to make the rounded tiles, but the molds are still still used by the tile artisans, and the tiles are often called "leg tiles."

older, "leg-mold" tiles.  Note that they are connected with wires.
Once the clay is molded, it is set in the sun to dry, and once dry, the tiles are placed in an over for baking. Note the pictures of a tile location on the way to Saraguro where both bricks and roofing tiles are made.

tiles (well, these are actually bricks, but it's the same concept) set out to dry

the kiln for complete drying and hardening

a close-up of the file with a handy dandy blower to help keep the wood burning well
Unfortunately, though, industry has moved in, and several of the newer tiles are manufactured. These tiles are not round but instead are angular and shiny, and they are seen on newer buildings. As you might have guessed, they are cheaper.

newer, manufactured flat tiles
Beyond the red artisan tiles, however, one sees all sorts of colors of hand-made tiles: green, black, mixed reds, yellow, and other variations of mixed colors.  Some of the tiles are glazed (becoming shiny), while others have the more traditional "flat" color.

And often, one sees aluminum “tiles” – the cheaper way to go.

On some of the roofs, you can see a cross at the center of the peak, and some of the crosses are quite ornate, with others unadorned.  We have heard two variations on the meaning of this cross. One tour guide indicated that the cross was Incan and was meant to connect the lower earth with the earth and the sky. Another tour guide said that the cross was Christian, and that if you didn’t have a cross, the Spanish priest would come to the house. Who knows. . . . Perhaps both viewpoints are right.

One other noticeable rooftop “adornment” is the blue water tanks providing “pure” water for the inhabitants.

That's it for your roof-top lesson from Cuenca.

1 comment:

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