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The Optimus Prime of architecture

todayJune 3, 2015

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Bolivia’s crazily coloured buildings, and their miniatures – in pictures

Nick Ballon photographs the exuberant and painstakingly ornamented buildings of El Alto, the world’s highest major metropolis. In this series, some are twinned with miniature versions of the same buildings – a spiritual tradition of the region.

‘Sentinel Prime’
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The miniature versions of this and other El Alto buildings were photographed by Jonathan Minster. The project was inspired by the Alasitas festival – the largest miniature trade fair in the world – held every January in the Bolivian highlands. Thousands of spiritual devotees come to trade their miniature bikes, tables, laptops and cars, then get them blessed by akallawalla or yatiri (Andean medicinal healers or mystic).
Three of these diptych prints are now on sale – more details here

Edificio Mama Natty
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Many people living in El Alto, one of South America’s fastest growing cities, are from an indigenous background. Rapid urbanisation and new wealth for some has combined into a hybrid style which is modern and yet conveys their history and culture. What started as a spattering of eccentric buildings has become a full-blown construction trend, with around 120 completed and many more under construction

Havana Event Hall
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The typical home of El Alto’s Aymara people is grown vertically, with new levels being added as the family expands – plus added space for shops or even large party venues, all under the same roof. Until recently, these edifices remained characteristically orange, their exteriors bare brick. But not any more

Rey Otan Event Hall
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The arrival of Evo Morales as Bolivia’s first indigenous president in 2006 brought previously impoverished and socially marginalised indigenous communities a renewed pride in their identity. Wealthy Aymara merchants sought ways to differentiate their homes once there were no further storeys to add

El Tren Diamante
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Exteriors often boast large, polarised windows patterned in arrangements reminiscent of ancient ruins and sci-fi architecture. Interiors might feature Doric columns in neon green, myriad mirrors glinting like sequins on every wall, or swirling lines cascading from every corner

La Castela
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These extraordinary creations are made a reality by plasterers and bricklayers who often have no formal architectural or construction training. Rather than a limitation, this has resulted in surprising innovation
Photograph: Nick Ballon

El Olimpo
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These buildings might be seen as a pastiche of the wealth of aesthetic references which inundate their creators from all corners of daily life, TV and, crucially, their overflowing imaginations
Photograph: Nick Ballon

El Alto school of architecture
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Read more about the Bolivian architect whose ‘New Andean’ style is transforming El Alto here.

Source: theguardian.com

Written by: New Generation Radio

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