For decades, El Alto, Bolivia’s second-largest city, was not exactly an architectural gem, but since 2005, Freddy Mamani Silvestre has been brightening the place up and causing quite a stir.

Freddy Mamani Silvestre's architecture in El Alto, Bolivia
© Peter Granser, from El Alto /



With their opulent facades reminiscent of Gaudí and Hundertwasser, Freddy Mamani Silvestre’s buildings defy the otherwise thoroughly drab face of El Alto. Since 2005, self-made architect Silvestre has built some 60 mini-mansions in his native Bolivia. His vernacular is “Neo-Andean” and borrows motifs and colors from many Andean cultures, providing an aspirational style for the growing indigenous wealthy class that buys his houses. As always, there are some who mock, calling his houses “flamboyant spaceships for the nouveaux riches.”