Offbeat

By Jack Williams


These quirky technicolour homes may look like something out of a fairy tale, but they can actually be found dotted across Bolivia as a means of showing economic success.

Named Cholets, the buildings feature bright, solid colours, as well as windows that come in an array of shapes and sizes – designs shaped by indigenous folklore.

So outlandish, they offer an amazing contrast to homes even one door down, which are small and made of bricks.

Photographer Yuri Segalerba snapped the unique structures across the El Alta, a satellite city of La Paz.

PIC YURI SEGALERBA / CATERS

According to Yuri, the word Cholet is a mixture of “chalet” and “cholo” – a dismissive racial epithet used in some Latin American countries to identify indigenous people.

The homes are also said to follow a fixed structure: commercial activity on the bottom floor, a party hall on the second, a third floor of apartments, and then the owner’s quarters on the top floor.

Yuri, 39, from Genoa, Italy, said: “There has been a lot of interest and curiosity.

“Some consider them beautiful, some defined them art, somebody else said a marker of class distinction.

PIC YURI SEGALERBA / CATERS

“Everybody got emotionally involved – some in a positive way, some in a negative one.”

The style of home came from self-taught architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre and, in his wake, other members of the nascent Aymara bourgeoisie started to build their houses this way.

In El Alto, such buildings became representative of economic success, and having discovered one, Yuri then walked the streets of the city to find around 30 others.

PIC YURI SEGALERBA / CATERS

Through his images, Yuri looks to show the social and architectural contrast been such grandeur and those surrounding them.

He said: “My attention was caught by the social and architectural contrast of this buildings with the environment.

“I was intrigued by the social cause they represent – the new Aymara bourgeoisie in a city where this people are in general still extremely poor – and the architectural case that the most of the buildings in El Alto are small houses made of bricks, and here and there these colourful towers break the flat skyline of the city.”