Several years ago, El Alto, Bolivia, which is a stronghold of an indigenous group called the Aymara, was a populous city of bland, brick red buildings. Then a builder by the name of Freddy Mamani Silvestre came along, and began constructing flamboyant "Andean palaces" for the newly minted Aymaran middle class. There are now more than six dozen such buildings dotted around the city in bright fiesta colors with geometric motifs and extravagant adornments. London's Architectural Association School of Architecture recently exhibited photos of Mamani's distinctive work, labeling it "an architectural phenomenon. "Some refer to it as 'space-ship architecture,' others herald it as 'new Andean,' but most just call it 'kitsch." Now, there's even a documentary planned about the intriguing new building style.
Mamani does not have architectural training, but his singular vision is proving immensely popular with the city's residents, who pay between $300K and $600K for one of the exuberant homes. Each of his creations comes with a two-story ballroom, so his clients can host large gatherings. A Washington Post reporter visited a Mamani-designed wedding hall with many orange curlicue moldings, and described the interiors thusly: "a spellbinding tapestry of bright paint, LED lights and playful Andean motifs: chandeliers anchored to butterfly symbols, doorways that resemble owls and candy-colored pillars that could hold up a Willy Wonka factory."
In less than a decade, Mamani has invented what the Architectural Association School of Architecture has labeled "the most interesting architectural development in the country today." Take a look: