The Metamodern Architecture of Bolivian Genius Freddy Mamani Silvestre

Architecture has been one of the more important cultural forms discussed in the delineation and conceptualization of the Modern and Postmodern epistemes. Modernist architecture, in a nutshell, is generally characterized by its shedding of aesthetic features not directly related to the function and underlying structure of a building, while postmodernist architecture is known for bringing back ornamentation and playfully juxtaposing elements of style from various cultures and historical periods. However, not a lot has been written about any sort of metamodernarchitecture as far as we know. (Here is one treatment of the topic from Notes On Metamodernism.)

Recently, Bolivian architect Freddy Mamani Silvestre, known as the King of Andean Architecture, has been making a splash all over print and online media. As soon as we saw pictures of his work, we thought “Now THAT looks like Metamodern architecture.”

Why? Silvestre’s work features boldly colorful, whimsical designs and yet resists being dismissed as “kitsch” because, rather than being a product of commercial culture, it is actually a revival of deep aesthetic traditions from the Andean Aymara and Tiwanaku cultures (as pointed out by Matt Shaw in an article in Architzer). Silvestre is known for working without formal architectural drawings; instead he just describes what he wants to the team of professionals who work under him. At the same time, Silvestre, a trained and degreed Civil Engineer, utilizes recently developed technologies in order to both ensure his buildings meet ambitious environmental standards, and to achieve fantastic interior optical effects. And, in spite of the somewhat ad hoc, “noncompliant” feeling that his buildings often project, he actually designs them from an integrative, social-justice-oriented, urban-planning perspective.

So, from our point of view, this work combines traditional, modern, and postmodern elements, along with a playful quirkiness that results in an arguably metamodern style of architecture.

*** For more on Freddy Mamani Silvestre, take a look at this piece in The New Yorker, and this one in Architectural Review. ***

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