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The Roots of New Andean Architecture

The bold movement’s inspiration began more than 1,000 years ago, in Tiwanaku.

When Freddy Mamani founded the New Andean Architecture movement in Bolivia, he was connecting directly with a centuries-old culture that was once almost forgotten. Rejecting colonial influence on Bolivian architecture, Mamani instead plunged into the roots of indigenous culture in the Lake Titicaca region, where the city of El Alto is located. He found his inspiration in the culture of Tiwanaku, one of the greatest civilizations of Mesoamerica.  

The city of Tiwanaku pre-dates Incan culture. It evolved out of the Yaya-Mama culture, which formed around the great lake around 1,400 BCE. The Yaya-Mama people created ornate pottery and carvings, whose style and content became more sophisticated over the centuries, until the rise of the Tiwanaku civilization around 200 BCE. 

The Tiwanaku people created a sophisticated society based around agriculture, herding and fishing, eventually building a true urban center that welcomed up to 20,000 citizens. The city of Tiwanaku was the center of a sophisticated political entity that controlled a massive part of the coastal and inland region of what is known as Bolivia today. 

Thriving from around 500 to 1,000 CE, the Tiwanaku people built impressive structures using stonework, and gold and silver inlay. Their surviving pottery, ceramics and textiles are adorned with bright, vivid colors, and geometrical shapes and patterns. 

While a great deal of knowledge about this vibrant cultural hub has been lost, it is recognized to have had a powerful influence on later Inca culture. Inca mythology even places the creation of the human race at Lake Titicaca.  

For modern-day architects, designers and thinkers like Freddy Mamani, forging a link with the great Tiwanaku civilization is key to creating a distinct indigenous vernacular. At a time when creative people of all backgrounds are re-thinking the weight of history and staking out new ground, the New Andean movement represents a bold step forward.  

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