Mosaic art project brings wilderness to Chile’s urban jungle

In the commune of Puento Alto on the outskirts of Santiago, a community art project is turning a drab concrete metro station into a vibrant natural history museum. 

Thanks to 37-year-old sculptor, ceramicist, and mother of two, Isidora Paz López, an unassuming metro station in Santiago’s lower socioeconomic barrio of Puente Alto is being transformed into a dazzling work of art, which doubles as an outdoor museum of natural history.
Spreading across the concrete pillars that keep the metro station aloft is a jungle of vivid mosaics, displaying local animals and plants, from prickly pears to dragonflies, each adorned with educational material.
“We created the concept of showing the flora and fauna of our area and to do it from micro to macro,” López told Mosiac Art Now. “People would discover in the mosaics all of the amazing nature that we have around us. There would be images of all sorts of animal, insect and plant life. At the bottom of each pillar would be the scientific and common names for each species, so there would be be an educational contribution to the city as well.”
Each pillar starts with a photograph, sometimes one taken by López’ husband, German nature photographer, Chris Lukhaup.
The visionary artist’s plan originally was for the project to cover 84 pillars of the Puento Alto metro station with mosaics – an estimated 26,909 square feet (2,500 m²) – by the end of October, using a crew of 32 people.
But due to the success of the ongoing project, it has been scaled up to include a second metro station, with an additional 32291 feet square (3,000 m²) and a second crew of 27.
And though the project is not finished yet, it is already generating a positive response from the local community.
“Every day people stop to comment on how beautiful the mosaics are and to thank us for what we are doing,” López said. “Some people leave the metro at the station before this one just so they can walk part of the way home to see the mosaics. Others come from far away just to see what we are doing and to congratulate us. We have also noticed that many of the neighbors have become interested in mosaic; they come by in the afternoons to collect leftover tile shards for use in their own homes.”
To read more about this inspiring project, and for a gallery of photos, head to the Mosaic Art Now website.