Join the Architectural Association El Alto 2019

La Paz
Monday 22 July – Sunday 4 August 2019

Portable Cholets

As you walk in the streets of La Paz, you immediately understand that there is a mystic feeling in paceños. There is a practical and a sacred sense in all the things they do: the most ordinary routines can be naturally transformed into unique spiritual happenings. The VS El Alto will persist on questioning notions of identity, folklore and contemporary rituals translated into architecture.

If last year the VS investigated the masks, the costumes and the choreography of an actual Bolivian traditional dance – the Diablada – in the 2019 edition we will craft our own characters, to construct a layered performance, dealing both with popular myths and the urban fabric morphology. Students will thoroughly experience Freddy Mamani's cholets, as built examples of the symbiosis among religion, politics, Pop and popular culture. Their compositional and aesthetic features are indeed grounded into the symbolism of indigenous folkloric dances and textiles: here demons, dragons and angels, together with real-world creatures like bears and owls not only populate the parades, but also dictate the geometrical abstract motifs of the facades and the proportions of ornamental details within the interiors.

We will analyze and absorb El Alto's contaminated visual languages – privileged witnesses of the syncretism between Andean paganism and Catholic instances - to extract design principles and spatial hierarchies, that enable a direct interplay of scale between architecture and the human body.

Indeed, we will record the memories of these identitarian architectural compounds, consciously adopting dysfunctional procedures to track back the symbolic items that inspired them. El Alto's colourful buildings will become again costumes, masked characters with anthropomorphic and animalistic lineaments to dynamically inhabit the streets of La Paz – wearable and portable Cholets.

Prominent Features of the workshop/ skills developed

Act 1: Sampling (with Patricio Crooker, Photographer)

During the first days we explore El Alto, the highest metropoli in the world, mapping selected cholets and the surrounding markets. Students will search for shooting locations based on their interest and investigation. We will sample precise architectural bits, record symbolic signs and pair them with daily found objects – recovering forgotten myths and looking for meaningful clashes.

Act 2: Crafting (with Mario Sarabia, Ceramist)

The actual translation will then take place: the cholets will be dissected and recomposed into personified miniatures. We will work mainly with clay, understanding its properties and construction techniques. Earthy finishings will be combined with polished components, the masks will be conceived as open interfaces for additions of alternative material fragments.

Act 3: Performing (tbc with Marcos Loayza, Film Director)

The architectural masks will become portable cholets: alive characters inhabited by the students. They will collectively build and record an urban performance, a collection of moments to embody a culturally generated spatial narrative. And, eventually, to represent a constructed accomplishment of another form of Andean syncretism: the physical convergence between architecture and its actors.

1) You can make an application by completing the online application found under ‘Links and Downloads’ on the AA Visiting School page. If you are not able to make an online application, email for instructions to pay by bank transfer.

2) Once you complete the online application and make a full payment, you are registered to the programme. A CV or a portfolio is not required.

The deadline for applications is: 1st June 2019.

All participants travelling from abroad are responsible for securing any visa required, and are advised to contact their home embassy early. After payment of fees, the AA School can provide a letter confirming participation in the workshop.

Download the information related to this event here.

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Cite: "Join the Architectural Association El Alto 2019" 25 Feb 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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