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Cemetery Cities-Jardin del Humaya Cemetery, Cuilacan, Sinaloa Mexico Cartel-2Jardin del Humaya Cemetery, Cuilacan, Sinaloa Mexico

Conspicuous wealth isn’t limited to life on earth, it seems. There are many amazing examples of architectural masterpieces built for the afterlife. While much of the focus is often on the tributes to single individuals–Lenin, Sun Yat Sen–or creepy crypts full of skulls and bones, we’d like to highlight the cemetery cities we’ve been coming across recently. From a distance, some of these may look simply like a suburban residential neighborhood. Look closer, and you’ll realize they’re cities of the dead.

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Argentina1-18

Latin America’s most cosmopolitan city is a magnet for urban artists and art lovers from across the globe. Here in Buenos Aires graffiti art is not a clandestine activity, but a celebrated art form that turns talented graffiti artists into celebrities. Colourful, larger-than-life murals are painted freely on busy city streets, often with the approval of local porteños and money from the government. Found in barrios across the city, street art works range from small stencil images to grandiose displays of world-class artistic talent representing Argentina’s vibrant social and political culture.

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Recoleta cemetery

When Argentina’s wealthy and powerful rest for eternity, they do it in style. Recoleta cemetery is one of the world’s most extraordinary graveyards, with over 6,400 grandiose mausoleums resembling Gothic chapels, Greek temples, fairytale grottoes and elegant little houses. The exclusive cemetery is the last stop for the country’s most celebrated (and controversial) presidents, intellectuals, army generals and entertainers, and a popular attraction for visitors to Buenos Aires.

Though the cemetery most famously holds the remains of actress-turned-First Lady Eva Perón (also known as Evita), many of Recoleta cemetery’s less internationally known residents are buried in masterpiece mausoleums, many with dramatic and intriguing stories behind them. Here is a look at 10 tombs to visit in Recoleta Cemetery.  (more…)

Ah ’tis the season for haunted houses, gingerbread houses and more. Every year, artists amaze us with their ingenuity as they recreate fabulous architecture out of fun materials, some at a small scale and others at a livable scale. Here’s a roundup of our favorites:

Victorian Houses of Lego by Mike Doyle

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Victorian Lego House by Mike Doyle. Image via Mike Doyle on Flickr

Artist Mike Doyle made this Victorian House entitled “Lego: Victorian on a Mud Heap” out of 110,000 to 130,000 pieces of Legos in black, white, dark, light bluish gray, clear transparent and black transparent colors. No additional materials were used besides Legos and no Lego pieces were cut. It took him about 600 hours to build. His website shows the making of process. with closeups.

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Here’s what the Untapped staff has been enjoying this week (along with the crisper October temperatures).

New York

Ever wondered what would happen if you threw caution into the wind and actually drank water from the Gowanus canal? So has Dan Nosowitz of Popular Science. Despite its location in the now-blooming Gowanus neighborhood, the canal itself is still one of America’s most polluted waterways. According to Nosowitz’s exposé, if you take a drink (not recommended), anticipate a very high risk of developing dysentery, cancer, and arsenic poisoning. Read the full article here.

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La Boca, a barrio on the edge of downtown Buenos Aires, is frequented by visitors (typically tourists) eager for a glimpse into the local culture. All year long, the neighborhood is a tour bus destination stop where guides introduce people to the brightly colored homes, local cuisine restaurants and the art of the tango. However, the ironic juxtaposition between eager tourists and the socioeconomic state–La Boca is one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in the entire city–should not be overlooked.

It should be mentioned upfront that while doing research for this article I strayed off the beaten path into an (unbeknownst to me) unsafe territory. While snapping pictures of parks and murals with a friend, we were stopped by the local police and escorted back to the main (read: touristy) section of La Boca. Recent child abductions, robberies and drug trafficking made the area dangerous for locals not to mention lone international dwellers.

For visitors of La Boca, the multi-colored homes are the main attraction. The use of bright visual materials comes from a history of immigration from Genova. Upon arrival, the new immigrants built homes out of what could be found near the docks and the fields in nearby factories. Because there was not enough of any one type of material, the houses were constructed with mixed mediums. Shortly after building process finished, a local artist painted the neighborhood with the colors that readily available.

Today, in the pockets of the neighborhood where tourists are less likely to frequent, there remain signs of poverty. The homeless sleep on benches with their dogs one street parallel from the main section of La Boca where tourists spend money on souvenirs. After conversations with locals who knew La Boca, the underprivileged lack faith in their government’s ability to aid them, a common sentiment shared by others in similar circumstances across the globe.

However, a brighter note can be found outside of the main section on the walls of the buildings that align the periphery of La Boca. Equally bright murals adorn abandoned buildings. Some murals feature whimsical clowns; others display depictions of the people proud to call La Boca home. Neighborhood organizations, such as Fundación PROA, tap into the creative scene hosting artists and organizing community support events. Additionally, PROA features many exhibitions by contemporary artists.

Soon, La Boca will undergo a transformation. Argentine architecture firm, PALO Arquiteca Urbana, will revamp the neighborhood’s spotty transportation infrastructure. The unreliable transportation is believed to be the main obstacle hindering the growth of the area. PALO surmises that a more viable infrastructure will bring more locals to the area, as opposed to tourists. Perhaps it’s a naive hope that  improvements will bring an improved quality of life to La Boca without sacrificing its history.

Get in touch with the author @untappedalley.