Cunucu houses

Pastel houses surrounded by cacti fences adorn Aruba’s flat, rugged cunucu (“country” in Papiamento). The features of these traditional houses were developed in response to the environment. Early settlers discovered that slanting roofs allowed the heat to rise and that small windows helped to keep in the cool air.

Among the earliest building materials was caliche, a durable calcium-carbonate substance found in the island’s southeastern hills. Many houses were also built using interlocking coral rocks that didn’t require mortar (this technique is no longer used, thanks to cement and concrete). The houses were built with the materials which the environment offered.

At first the center was built. If the family got more money, a side wing was built. Some houses have no side wings, some have one and some have two.

Contemporary design combines some of the basic principles of the earlier homes with touches of modernization: windows, though still narrow, have been elongated; roofs are constructed of bright tiles; pretty patios have been added; and doorways and balconies present an ornamental face to the world beyond.

January 29, 2017