Suyo(s) Teleférico(s): Ritual Infrastructure for the Conservation of Counter-Heritage
Preserving intangible heritage is almost always done wrong. Institutional conservation practices inevitably create time capsules, freezing a static moment of culture. This neither protects the culture nor ensures the longevity of the community involved. Instead, the emerging identities of the modern day inheritors of culture are deemed less valuable and unworthy of protection, while the protected icons and rituals become academic curios. Cultures must, and do, evolve to remain robust and relevant. Conservation practice must protect this evolution. This is especially true of cultures and identities that are under threat. Instead of the catalogue, a network is needed. Instead of the museum, ritual infrastructure.
The rapid urbanisation of the indigenous Aymara of Bolivia is threatening this identity. This is particularly marked in El Alto. The rate of internal immigration to El Alto has made it the fastest growing city in Bolivia. Traditionally rural ayllus are fractured in this urban environment. In response, young urban Aymara have created their own identity, Alteño. This identity, based around community groups, is the way in which they claim ownership of their new urban environment while connecting to their Aymara heritage.
Alasitas festival is a powerful indicator of the of the evolution of this identity. Miniatures are purchased as offerings for Pachamama. They are blessed by a Catholic priest and traditional Yatiri and placed at the feet of Ekeko. The evolution of these items over time serve as an index of the aspirations of the culture.
UNESCO and other international bodies have already recognised the threats to this culture. The Alasitas festival was protected under the UNESCO protocol for the protection of intangible cultural heritage in 2014. However, the items and rituals protected speak to a disconnect between conservation institutions and emerging identities. The inventory of miniatures represent the aspirations of different generations: husband and wife; babies; money; a diploma; a house. They impose these values on the new generation while marginalising the desires of new identities grown out of a unique cultural and urban circumstance.
This project proposes a radical conservation practice. Three subculture Alteño collectives have lodged a counter-inventory with UNESCO. Mujeres Creando, an anarcho-feminist collective. Wayna Tambo, an Aymara rap group. Hormigon Armado, the balaclava-wearing shoeshine boys who publish a zine detailing the discrimination and poverty they face. These groups hijack institutional conservation practices to fund their own means of cultural production. Re-appropriating UNESCO funds, they set up their own conservation mechanism: a perpetual Alasitas Festival.
Three towers of cultural production are built, connected by a processional walkway that houses the perpetual Alasitas Festival. In the street markets of El Alto, this network colonises the infrastructure of the city. It spreads up and along Mi Teleférico, the cable car system linking El Alto and La Paz. It claims back green space fenced off by the municipality. Cultural production becomes collective and public. This network of ritual infrastructure, driven by evolving Alteño identities, claims the city for those who live there and culture for those who generate it.
School of Architecture
MA Architecture, 2018
- Bachelor of Architectural Design, University of Queensland, Australia
- Architectural Assistant, Assemblage, London, 2016 - 2017; Architectural Assistant, Allies & Morrison, London, 2015 - 2017; Architectural Assistant, Sparks Architects, Peregian Beach, 2014 - 2015; Architectural Assistant, Cavill Architects, Brisbane, 2013 - 2014; Freelance BIM Technician, Brisbane, 2012 - 2013