Friday, March 4


Amy Welborn has a lovely post about an article in the New York Times (registration required, but it's worth it) detailing the adventures of a baroque-loving, Bavarian-born priest who's been involved in the construction of over eighty strange and wonderful new parish churches in the poor, rapidly-expanding Bolivian city of El Alto. The article is architecturally wrong-headed as it makes some random references to Swiss gingerbread cottages to describe stonework that is clearly a fascinating blend of pre-Columbian and Spanish Plateresque, but the pictures--in particular the little slideshow tucked away in a sidebar--make up for the journalistic inanity. The churches themselves are often naive (delightfully so), looking if some ebullient Bohemian plasterworker of the eighteenth century had moved to the Chaco and decided to work exclusively in Gumbyesque Play-doh. They're certainly not the apex of design but to think that such obvious joy could be evident in the design of a building in this horrifically dull age is truly wonderful. They're a fascinating example of real modern folk art, growing out of the people and the priests in a place where Catholic culture is still strong rather than the work of some oddball loner like Simon Rodia. I'd go to mass there, anyway.

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