EL ALTO, Bolivia – The Transformers have been transformed yet again.
Already featured as toys and video games, comic books, television series and movies, they've now been reconfigured as exuberantly colorful multistory buildings that loom unexpectedly over the hardscrabble streets of El Alto, the world's highest big city.
A fan of the series, Santos Churata, designs the facades and interiors of lurid colors, jutting angles and plenty of gleaming metal.
"I think it brings out your inner child. The owner feels part of the movies," Churata said.
So far, the 33-year-old has designed five buildings inspired by the Optimus and Sentinel Prime characters and one by a non-Transformer robot, "The Iron Giant." The rental ballroom on the ground floor of one five-story building looks like the interior of a gargantuan toy. Apartments hide behind the gaudy decor on the floors above.
"It's as if you were on a journey to the future or to space, with tridimensional figures that make you feel as if you're in constant movement," Churata said.
El Alto, at an elevation of nearly 14,000 feet (more than 4,100 meters) is a fast-growing city of roughly 1 million people that neighbors Bolivia's capital of La Paz. It's an often chaotic place, the streets crowded with venders selling all manner of goods, many of them counterfeit knockoffs of well-known brands. The Transformer buildings themselves are an unlicensed homage to the franchise held by Hasbro, which did not respond to a request for comment.
Until now, the city's best known architectural features have been colorful mini-mansions adorned with indigenous Andean symbols that have been built for a new middle class in a country that has seen rapid economic growth over the past decade.
The Transformers treatment can sharply raise the price of the structures. But Churata insists it's worth the price: "If it makes you happy, why not?"