On the outskirts of El Alto, a sprawling and impoverished city above La Paz, lies the world’s most colorful community housing project. Condominio Wiphala was inaugurated by president Evo Morales in 2016 to provide dignified housing to needy locals in the lead up to a decisive national referendum. But Wiphala is worlds away from other charmless public housing estates, thanks to the entire facade being beautifully decorated by Bolivia’s most celebrated artist.
Beloved Bolivian painter Roberto Mamani Mamani is responsible for the awe-inspiring paint job that adorns each side of this jaw-dropping urban artistic display. Each of its seven tower blocks are drenched in vibrant color, with exotic Andean depictions of animals and people stretching some 12 stories into the sky.
Mamani Mamani personally designed the meticulous murals, reportedly delighted to work with the incredible canvas which spans more than 107,000 ft2 (10,000 m2). A Bolivian indigenous Aymara, he has become a household name throughout the country for his vibrant Andean inspired designs, which have been featured in museums and exhibitions in Bolivia and around the world.
A team of 30 painters worked long hours for months on end to ensure the masterpiece was completed on time. The final result is nothing short of spectacular; seven great protrusions of color amid an otherwise drab and lusterless bare-brick city.
The social housing project was funded to provide a dignified living space for lower to middle income families who are capable of making modest monthly repayments. Each 882 ft2 (82 m2), three bedroom apartment is on sale for US$42,000, typically with a 10 repayment period and an interest rate of 5.5%.
There is space for 336 families inside the estate, although so far uptake has been slow. Those with the financial means prefer to live closer the city center rather than its impoverished outskirts, a place where there is little more than dirt roads and corrugated iron roof shanties as far as the eye can see.
In November 2016, the government loosened requirements to include any eligible family in Bolivia, not just those of El Alto, in an attempt to fill the empty tower blocks. But for now, despite the incredible artwork of the immensely talented Mamani Mamani, much of Wiphala still remains uninhabited.