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Tucson Architecture

Talking Tucson Architecture

Language oddities, borne out of culture and lifestyle, exist in every corner of the globe. Local patter and conversation become so laced with native references, at times, that even the shortest conversation can sound foreign, in a nice kind of way, to an unfamiliar ear.
Selling real estate, here in Tucson, involves words and descriptions inherited from our rich Native American and Spanish histories. Terms like “viga” and “nicho” are tossed about as readily as “window” or “fence”. If you’re planning a trip to Tucson, here are some guides to help you learn and understand the architectural language of Southern Arizona.
As Realtors® we are in the business of selling and buying las casas (homes), as in “my casa is your casa”, but not before you put down a deposit!
You’ll drive up the camino (road) and enter your casa through la puerta  (door) or maybe through the portal  (a patio attached to the home, with a fixed roof supported by posts).
Your property may be surrounded by natural vegetation (flowers and plant life) and trees such as the alameda  ( Spanish for cottonwood tree, but has come to mean a road bordered by cottonwoods),  aspen trees ( high-elevation deciduous trees, meaning that they drop their gold- colored leaves in the fall), pinon trees ( a high-desert, nut-bearing evergreen tree), or a juniper or two (a high-desert evergreen that seldom grows more than 15 feet tall).
There may be a bosque in the distance (a low-lying area near rivers, densely forested with cottonwoods and other deciduous trees), an arroyo (a dry riverbed that fills, occasionally), or a stately mesa (a flat-top mountain meaning “table” in Spanish), all of which were traversed by the industrious Anasazi  many years ago ( ancestral Pueblo Indians also known as the “Ancients”).
They utilized adobe (a mud brick dried in the sun), following the brick-making methods first used 8,500 years ago by Middle Eastern civilizations). Most Pueblo and Indian homes were equipped with a horno (a free-standing adobe bread oven); and variations of the banco (an adobe bench covered in plaster). Access to water was provided through an acequia (a man-made irrigation ditch) or collected by the canale (a spout that directed water off a flat Pueblo roof).
In the plaza (a public square in the center of town), people will speak of your beautiful home, or of La Fonda ( the “hotel” in Spanish) or La Posada (the “inn” in Spanish)  as they take an evening stroll along a picturesque paseo (“promenade”, path or walkway).
The interior of your home will contain the trappings of rustic Native American and Spanish décor. Sturdy flagstone (flat sheets of red or white, locally-mined stone) is used for flooring in homes and on exterior patios. Coping (decorative detail on the top edge of a building and around doors and windows) presents a finished, Old World nuance, as does the use of corbel beams (short, sculpted beams placed on top of a post or wall) and latillas (small branches of aspen, pine or cedar, used as ceiling planking) for a woodsy, indoor covering; or lintel slabs (wooden beams bridging window or door openings), as well as vigas (round logs used as shaved or raw ceiling beams). 
You’ll enjoy the view outside from a lovely ventana (window) at every indoor juncture. Stucco (a cement colored, plastered coating), used on the exterior of adobe-style buildings) create the realistic appearance of architectural days gone by.
Unique beauty meets practicality in the use of the nicho (a small shelf carved into a wall), perhaps also incorporating saltillo tile (a simple fired earthen tile made in Saltillo, Mexico). Talavera tile (colorful hand-decorated Mexican tile used for counter tops and trim) will brighten your kitchen and its spacious utility surfaces. A Rumford fireplace  (a tall, shallow fireplace known for great efficiency) will warm interior spaces, while providing an exciting visual, living component. A kiva (a small “beehive-shaped” fireplace) is a quaint, entertaining addition to your home, inside or out.
Carry a luminaria or farolito  (“little lantern”, typically a paper bag with a sand ballast and lighted candle) at Christmas or for any celebration you wish! A luminaria is also a side-walk built fire for carolers to gather around.
Escarpment ordinances are contained in new laws in the Santa Fe area which prevent digging or building on surrounding mountainsides. Historic Styles Ordinances are regulations governing the architectural style of all buildings within the historic district of downtown Santa Fe.

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