‘Palopó’ showed how a project to paint a whole town in vibrant patterns inspired by their ancestral textile patterns transformed its economy and instilled hope for its future.

Guatemala’s installation told the story of Pintando Santa Catarina Palopó – an initiative that sought to transform an impoverished town on Lake Atitlán by essentially turning it into a monumental artwork. The design efforts were led by Designer Diego Olivero from Olivero & Bland Studio, and a team of designers, architects and local leaders worked with the community to paint the town’s 800 houses using patterns inspired by local textiles. Each family chose from five colour combinations and a series of stencil designs, all based on the traditional huipil.

The intention was to boost tourism by creating a unique and beautiful townscape, and by extension a viable local economy. But it was also simply a means of engendering a sense of civic pride and building a greater connection between the Kaqchikel-speaking villagers and local and international tourism. “Santa Catarina Palopó shows how the force of social design can be used as a tool to create immediate positive impact,” said exhibition curator Cecilia Santamarina – Cultural Attaché.

The floating installation of contemporary geometric forms resembled the multi-coloured houses of the town designed and developed by Diego Olivero from Olivero Bland Studio while a textile mobile, designed by Zyle using repurposed local textiles, hinted at the volcanic mountains that surround it. “Through the materials, colours and whimsical feeling that everything is floating, we wish to bring a dreamlike feeling of hope,” said Santamarina – Cultural Attaché.

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Photography: Ed Reeve


Administering Body:

Embassy of Guatemala in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland


Cecilia Santamarina de Orive, Cultural Attache AdHonorem, Guatemalan Embassy UK

Design Team:

Olivero Bland Studio in Collaboration with Sylvia Denburg - Zyle


Diego Olivero, Sylvia Denburg - Zyle, Juan Olivero, Thomas Bland, Andrés Velasquez, Diego Reyes, Sandra de Leon, Pablo Ramirez

Supporting Bodies:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Guatemala, Pintando Santa Catarina Palopo, Cementos Progreso, PERENCO, INGUAT, Grupo Buena, Jaguar, Dario Escobar, CPS, Cemaco, Armet, Estudio Lucido, Chapin Films, Ministry of Economy Guatemala

2018 Exhibitors