21 years ago, German sculptor Martin Strätker fell in love with a Bolivian woman and decided to settle down in the small town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Armed with a great imagination, he decided to give form to his own dream: a weird and wonderful dwelling he called Las Olas (The Waves). Featuring sunny terraced gardens, solar water heaters, wood burners crafted from mud, and custom-made furniture in adobe suites, the place looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. And after a recent visit, we decided it feels that way too.
With shelters shaped like tortoises, a teepees, and snails, among other natural forms, Las Olas is easily spotted. As it’s built on a slope, each room has both privacy and marvelous views. Crafted by local builders Marcelino Arias and Mario Mendoza, Martin’s designs represent his passion for organic architecture with no straight lines.
Las Olas was mainly built from adobe, but also stones, mud and wood taken from the plot on which it stands. It opened 8 years ago and has a total of 21 rooms and 8 private shelters. Hot showers come courtesy of solar water heaters placed on the roofs.
All rooms and shelters are connected by terraced gardens with flourishing native species irrigated with the hotel’s filtered grey water. Featuring hammocks, deck chairs, stone tables and fire pits, the hotel is ideal for relaxing and unwinding. All suites are comprised of local, low-cost, natural materials and some are inspired by round buildings popular among the ancient Chipaya culture.
Inside, the suites are flooded with natural light and everything was custom-made (including the round beds) to adapt to the organic shapes. The same materials found outside are used in unexpected ways inside as well. All shelters have the comfort of a home, with an integrated living area, a small kitchen unit, a bedroom and a bathroom.
Cute mud wood-burners in the living room are provide warmth when temperatures drop. At Las Olas, everything is unique, sourced-locally found, and sustainable. And Gaudi is in the details (Martin is a fan.)
Staying at Las Olas is an unforgettable experience. But the best thing (well, maybe not for the owners, but certainly for peace-loving guests) is the absence of hordes of tourists. This exceptional hotel reflects the bond between a German sculptor and a small group of local builders who learned from their differences and helped realize each other’s dreams.
Photos by © Ana Lisa Alperovich for Inhabitat