One of my not so hidden passion is architecture. I am fascinated by buildings and how they can impact our lives. Houses, skyscrapers, religious buildings, museums, bridges... I just adore exploring how a particular space was thought for our use and needs.

So when ages ago I saw an article about these huge colourful houses in a city called El Alto, in Bolivia, I got very interested. In fact, I have the article bookmarked in my favourites since then.

Known as cholets, these mansions invite you to the astonishment. Big, live colours, bold, geometric forms, the cholets make themselves noted; you can't deny their presence - nor even should. Their owners are a new class of rich Aymara indigenous people, and the houses became their status symbol.

The style was created by the self-taught Bolivian architect Freddy Mamani, and the word cholets is a mixture of chalet (large house) and chola (indigenous woman).

By the way, most of the patterns and colours you see on the buildings are inspired by the fabric the Aymaras use for their clothes.

Besides the bold choices on the inside and outside, the buildings also follow the same pattern in their structure, with penthouses on the upper floors and space for shops or events on the ground floor. 

I don’t know if I would have a cholet built for myself - I can even hear my husband saying, 'Imagine the heating bill for this place?!' – but I do like a lot its personality and the idea of making a statement about ourselves in this manner. After all, our house should be the place in the world the most represent us, right? And most of the time, we end up with 50 shades of beige and pretend we are making a statement with that pink cushion on the corner of the sofa. 

I don’t know. These cholets just make me think that maybe we all could do a bit to stand out, showing off and not trying to camouflage with everything and everyone.

Food for thought. Let’s see what will come up for that.

Learn more about the architect @freddy_mamani_silvestre

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