Houses with “scales” lasting up to 100 years are a tradition on one Chilean island

Houses with “scales” lasting up to 100 years are a tradition on one Chilean island

One of the first things that strikes the tourist as soon as he arrives in the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile are the facades of the houses.

Simple or refined, single or double storey, the charm lies above all in the colorful wood paneling, which seems to wrap each house in a more ornate “lace” than the next. Effect of Tejuelas.

The tejuelas are overlapping pieces placed side by side in rows that serve both aesthetics and protect the houses from the cold characteristic of the region and from rain, since they are cut in the direction of the wood grain, which facilitates the drainage of the water.

Each piece is usually 50 to 60 cm long, 10 to 15 cm wide and up to 1 cm thick. The upper part, called the head, is always rectangular, the lower shape varies according to the tastes of the customer and can be square, diagonal, concave, round, pointed or trapezoidal.

Tejuelas  the houses with lace walls of the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile  Luciana Quierati  Luciana Quierati

In detail: The format of the tejuelas varies depending on the house and the carpenter who did the project

Image: Luciana Quierati

There are many carpenters in the archipelago who make the type of tejuela the person wants and they can cut up to 400 pieces a day. Ninoska Galarce, tour guide

The manufacture can be entirely handmade, very rustic, cutting the logs with an ax and shaping the pieces with mallets. However, the most common nowadays is cutting with electric saws or more technological machines.

Tejuelas  the houses with lace walls of the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile  Luciana Quierati  Luciana Quierati

Tejuelas can also be seen in stores and in general commerce.

Image: Luciana Quierati Tejuelas  the houses with lace walls of the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile  Luciana Quierati  Luciana Quierati

Colors and formats are specified in each Tejuela project

Image: Luciana Quierati

Secular tradition came from Europe

The coating is not a Chilota creation. It is present in European architecture and, according to historians, has been used since the 8th century BC. However, the element eventually reached the Chilean archipelago and became a tradition.

Tejuelas  the houses with lace walls of the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile  Luciana Quierati  Luciana Quierati

The tejuelas are easy to spot on the streets of Chiloé

Image: Luciana Quierati

Chiloé tejuela is usually made from a very durable wood common to southern Chile, larch, one of the tallest trees in the country, reaching 45 meters in height. It is this species that is considered the oldest living tree on earth at 5,484 years, called “great grandfather” and is native to the Alerce Costero National Park between Santiago and Chiloé.

Tejuelas  the houses with lace walls of the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile  Luciana Quierati  Luciana Quierati Image: Luciana Quierati

With the decline in the native larch forests, plastic tejuelas are now on the market, such as PVC or asbestos cement. However, without the same durability as wood a larch tejuela can last more than 100 years.

Tejuelas  the houses with lace walls of the Chiloé Archipelago in southern Chile  Luciana Quierati  Luciana Quierati Image: Luciana Quierati

The journalist traveled at the invitation of Tierra Chiloé