From floor to ceiling, interior to exterior, wood is a dominant architectural element in traditional and modern Santa Fe homes. Some components–such as vigas AKA beams–are common to architecture around the world; others are specific to the Southwest vernacular. For those unfamiliar with southwestern architectural styling, following is a mini-dictionary demystifying these terms.
Vigas (Vee’ gahs) are rafters made of peeled logs, usually fir, spruce, cedar or pine, that may or may not extend through a home’s wall to its exterior. They can provide support or merely be ornamental. Vigas come in full, half or quarter rounds. Size varies, but full rounds are often 16″ or greater in diameter. The space between them can be flat or coved plaster or filled with plank boards or latillas.
Latillas (Lah tee’ uhs) are thinner pieces of wood set between vigas–straight or on the diagonal. Latillas can be left in their natural state, with their bark on, or peeled. You will also see them split.
Canales: Spouts often made of wood and lined with metal that direct water off a roof.
Corbels: Historically crafted of stone to carry superincumbent weight between posts, corbels can be used to support a beam, juncture or arch, or just serve as a decorative element. They often show up on portals, (pour talls’) the deep, covered porches in the front or rear of Southwestern style homes, although they’re common to interiors as well.
Lintels: These exposed crossbeams add warmth and character above a window.
Coyote Fencing: Once used to corral and protect livestock from nighttime predators, coyote fencing now serves more often as an attractive privacy barrier, windbreak and property enclosure. Coyote fences are typically made of 3-3 1/2″ in diameter cedar poles with bark intact. The poles can been cut smooth across the top or run at random heights as a further deterrent to unwanted visitors. Spans can be supported by steel frames and posts, or more formal and ornamental adobe pillars.
Ambitious Do-it-Yourselfers can learn How to Build a Coyote Fence themselves, although most folks turn to professionals for materials and installation.