Canales: Iconic Elements in New Mexico Architecture
Above: Historic Photo of Canale at San Geronimo Mission in New Mexico, Library of Congress / Public Domain
By Stephanie M. Chambers
Canales (spouts or scuppers) in Santa Fe structures conduct the flow of rainwater collected from flat roofs to the ground. The drain projects through a parapet, directing the water away from the face of the adobe structure, reducing weathering, and then guiding it onto gravel or splash stones where it can irrigate the landscape.
This simple utilitarian element, over hundreds of years, has been elevated to an art form. Canales became more decoratively carved, brightly painted, and constructed with curves, zigzags, corbels and braces, as if to emphasize or celebrate the importance of rain, a precious commodity in this desert climate.