746. Kas di Tabla (Clapboard Houses)

Yuppies everywhere are wondering, ‘how much space do we really need to live comfortably? 300 sq feet? 500 sq feet? 1,000 sq feet?’ We live in a world where downsizing as opposed to super-sizing is a source of admiration, where small is beautiful and tiny houses built from green, recycled materials are a sign of responsibility, not poverty.  Eco-friendly architects and designers wreck their brain trying to come up with green, sustainable designs… just as much as we struggle to entertain our minds in these tiny homes…

These very tiny, environmentally friendly homes used to dot our countryside in the 19th and 20th century by necessity. A 1903 count revealed that there were 2,850 Kas di Pal’i Maishi against 80 stone-built dwellings in Banda Bou and though exact counts are unknown, the Kas di Tabla, the urban version of the rural Kas di Pal’i Maishi, dots most of Fleur de Marie and Sint Jago (east and west of Scharloo), Cornet, Cher Asile and Nieuw Nederland (north of Oranjestraat and east of Willemstad), Brionweg and Quinta (uphill Otrobanda).

Both Kas di Pal’i Maishi and Kas di Tabla evoke traditional West African huts with their rectangular floor plan, hipped roof, and symmetrical layout. But instead of sorghum stalk and thatch, Kas di Tabla’s roof is corrugated iron and, in rare cases, ceramic tiles and instead of wattle and daub and cow dung Kas di Tabla’s walls are made of clapboard and palette board, low-cost wooden packaging materials found in 20th century shipping containers.

Much like its imported construction materials, Kas di Tabla signal urbanization, industrialization as well as immigration from all over the  Caribbean (St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Monserrat, St. Maarten, Jamaica, Haiti) and South America (Suriname, Venezuela) hoping to fill vacancies in our oil refinery, established by Shell in 1915 (then, among the largest in the region).

Though these clapboard houses were built for – and by – resilient, resourceful people, as if they could pack up and leave at a moment’s notice, most ‘refinery immigrants’ married locals and decided to assimilate by investing in some colorful paint. In fact, Dr. J. Hartog’s ‘Curaçao, Short History’ estimates that our population increased from 33K in 1915 to about 149K in 1973! Needless to say, cozy living quarters and charming neighborhoods resulted in tight knit multi-cultural communities… and much of the awesome ‘sòus’ you see on this website.

Perhaps fancy eco-friendly architects should quit wrecking their brain and take some design cues from our Kas di Pal’i Maishi and Kas di Tabla…

About 1000awesomethingsaboutcuracao

I'm Carolina Gomes-Casseres, the creator of 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao. I live in and love Manhattan, but sometimes miss my first Awesome island...

3 comments

  1. Those wooden houses are great! So sweet and poetic,too!

  2. Pingback: 721. Curacao’s Budding Travel Entrepreneurs | 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao

  3. Pingback: 696. Curaçao Mourns the Loss of an Awesome Cultural Icon: Elis Juliana (1927 – 2013) | 1000 Awesome Things About Curaçao

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