Galapagos Island Construction is Unique, Too

September 27, 2015
Tiled entryway to Galapogos house.


Forget about the turtles, look at the tile


The Galapagos Islands, in the Pacific, west of Ecuador, represent one of the world’s richest environments, with more endemic species than anywhere else.

Ninety seven percent of the reptiles and land mammals, nearly 80% of the land birds, and more than 30% of the plants are unique to the islands.

If you snorkel or dive in the teaming, warm waters that envelope the archipelago, more than 20% of the marine species you will see are found nowhere else on earth.

But I am a builder, not a naturalist, so on a recent visit, instead of snorkeling or ogling giant tortoises, I paid close attention to the unique hardwoods, flamboyant tilework, volcanic stone construction, and the fabulous, sprouting fence posts.


Living fence posts in Galapagos


Eventually the posts become trees again, creating a canopy of color the envelops the road.


Cedrela wood harvested in a field


Endemic hardwood trees, such as the “cedrela” (also called Spanish Cedar) are only harvested once dead.

They are used to make beautiful tables and chairs.


Table made from cedrela wood


All around the island, the luster of cedrela furniture, doors, and trim gives a rich, opulent finish to the islands' building interiors.


Tile work on outside of Galapagos House


The locals have a penchant for flamboyant use colorful ceramic tile.


Tiled entryway to house in Galapagos Islands


Some of the tiled walls, floors and fences surpass attractive, architectural details to become minor works of art.


Tile work outside a house in Galapagos Islands



Volcanic rock masonry


I was especially intrigued by the use of volcanic stone as a building material. It’s used as masonry for building homes, fences, and a very rough paving.


harbor in Galapagos showing volcanic rock


There’s plenty of it on the islands, as the 13 major islands and 7 smaller islands that make up the Galapagos archipelago are remains of the rim of an ancient volcano.


Basalt stone masonry arch in Galapagos Islands


Below is a more traditional masonry wall that the stone cutter is cladding with thin slices of volcanic rock.


Masonry wall clad with thin slices of basalt -- Galapagos Islands



Chalome Elephantopus negra — Galapagos Giant Tortes


And… okay, a Chalome Elephantopus negra, otherwise known as a Galapagos Giant Tortes. Once nearly extinct, they’re everywhere, thanks to excellent conservation, like pigeons in the park.


— Fernando Pagés Ruiz is ProTradeCraft's Latin America Editor. He is currently building a business in Ecuador and a house in Mexico. Formerly, he was a builder in the Great Plains and mountain states. He is author of Building an Affordable House and Affordable Remodel (Taunton Press).



Fence posts made from porotillo


The island soils remain so fertile, never having tasted agricultural chemicals, that when residents plant “porotillo” posts along the road to string barbed wire, the posts begin to sprout leaves and become a truly green building fence.