• Colombia!

    Colombia: Caribbean Sea coast. Go Now!

    Although most of the people live inland, Colombia also has its share of coastline along the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea (pictured). Go Now!

  • Ecuador!

    Ecuador: Sally Lightfoot Crab. Go Now!

    The Galapagos Islands and Ecuador are home to incredible wildlife, such as the famous Galapagos Turtle and the lesser known, but more common Red Rock or Sally Lightfoot crab (pictured). Begin Your Journey!

  • Chile!

    Chile: Torres del Paine National Park. Go Now!

    The Andes dominate much of Chile, including the breath-taking Torres del Paine National Park (pictured). However, the country also hosts the world's driest desert and a thriving metropolis. Begin Your Journey!

  • Venezuela!

    Venezuela: Los Roques. Go Now!

    Rooted in Europe, Venezuela boasts an impressive history, culture, and beauty, including the Caribbean Coast (pictured). Explore Venezuela!

  • Bolivia!

    Bolivia: Salt flats. Go Now!

    This hidden gem is full of surprises, from the impressive salt flats (pictured) to the migrating flamingos. It also clings to the most historic indigenous culture on the continent. Explore Bolivia!

Architecture of Bolivia

Nearly all pre-Columbian architecture in Bolivia is housing as there were few structures built for other purposes, although there are some significant exceptions. These early houses varied greatly in style and materials used in order to best suite the local landscape and geography.

In the Lake Titicaca region the Aymara people developed a fairly advanced and wealthy civilization. Most structures in this region were made from the reeds in Lake Titicaca and even today there are "floating" homes on Lake Titicaca made of reeds. These homes are often times entirely made of reeds and they literally float on the water, much like a boat, but anchored into the lake bed. In their capital of Tiwanaku, however, most buildings were constructed in stone, many of which still stand today, although the city has long been abandoned.

The people who lived in the high plains near the salt flats lived in, and still often live in, tall cone-shaped windowless houses made of mud, roots, and sticks. In yet additional places in Bolivia the houses were likely made from local sticks, mud, and straw, although these houses may not have arrived to Bolivia prior to the Incan invasion in the 1400s.

With the arrival of the Spanish nearly all architecture in Bolivia changed. The indigenous housing changed as the Spanish introduced new building materials. They also brought in new structures and enough wealth to build on a large scale, changing the architectural landscape in Bolivia.

For the indigenous people, the greatest change likely came in the introduction of adobe, which often replaced the mud and stick mixture used in many houses prior to this time. Over time, clay tiled roofs also gained popularity, although this material is expensive so still somewhat rare for rural housing.

More visibly, the Spanish began building large cities as urban planning created cities on a grid, often centered around a large church and governor's palace. These large-scale construction projects were almost always built in the "Mestizo Baroque Style" or "Andes Baroque Style." This was the region's interpretation of Spanish Baroque and looks very similar to the original in most ways although there are definite influences from the local people, especially the Incans. Nearly every colonial church and palace was built in this style.

Churches in this style can be found in Sucre with the Basilica of San Francisco and Metropolitana Church, in the Chiquitos area with the Jesuit Mission temples, in Potosi with the Convent de Santa Teresa, in Carangas with the Iglesia de San Lorenzo, and in La Paz around the Plaza Murillo, although most of this city's colonial architecture has since been destroyed.

The Spanish settlers also brought with them their traditional homes from Europe in style and design. They were typically rectangular with a courtyard in the front, made with adobe and had red tiled roofs. The best chance to see original colonial homes in Bolivia is in the cities of Sucre, Potosi, and Cochabamba, all of which were wealthy cities in colonial times.

After Bolivia gained independence in the early 1800s the architectural styles generally changed. Much like in Europe, Bolivia built many of their new buildings during this time in the neo-Classical style. Many new churches and government buildings from this time period were built in this style.

In the early 1900s few new construction projects went up, primarily due to a lack of money as Bolivia was engulfed in wars, economic troubles, and social unrest. However, in the late 1900s and early 2000s Bolivia has again built a number of very impressive structures. The capital of La Paz looks like most modern day national capitals as modern and post-modern buildings dominate the skyline. Similar sky scrapers are also going up in other major cities, most notably in Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.

Another interesting architectural style of the present comes in the way of hotels and houses being made from salt bricks in the region of Oruro and Uyuni. Being near the salt flats this material is easily accessible, but more importantly, these structures are very appealing to tourists, which was the real motivation for their construction.

This page was last updated: February, 2013