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Tensioned fabric dresses up hand-made boats

September 1st, 2008 / By: / Feature

Traditional Mexican trajineras take on the latest technology to provide a stylish pleasure ride.

The Aztecs may well have invented a form of canoe used for transportation called trajineras. Similar in function to the Italian gondola rides, the trajineras (or “hauling boat” in Spanish), were designed to move people from place to place in the extensive system of canals that existed at least as far back as the 14th century and were centered around the ancient Lake Xochimilco, south of the area now occupied by Mexico City.

Xochimilco, today a popular tourist destination, continues to use trajineras, a tradition that has continued for generations. The hand-made boats are quite colorful and still constructed from wood with metal covers and highly decorated ends.

Mexican architect Marcos Outiveros has designed a few variations on the trajineras aesthetic for a new tourist development in Cancún, a “Mayan Riviera” called ???. Outiveros’ designs all use tensioned fabric in place of the traditional metal roofs, exploiting the sculptural qualities inherent in tensile saddle shapes. The wood bases to Outiveros’ three different prototypes are still constructed by the same Xochimilco craftsmen that make the trajineras, however, the roof is fabricated by Carpas y Lonas El Carrusel of Mexico City of PVC-coated polyester on a stainless steel framework.

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