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A Natural History Museum in Mosaic Rises in Chile: Isidora Paz López

On 15, Aug 2012 | 41 Comments | In Uncategorized | By Nancie

Outside of Santiago, Chile something magical is happening.

A concrete jungle of a metro station is becoming a brilliant, shimmering natural history museum. A community wracked by drugs and violence is reconnecting with itself and its natural heritage. And a cadre of young artists with no formal training in the art form is becoming one of the most accomplished mosaic teams on the planet.

Meet Isidora Paz López, sculptor, ceramicist, visionary and Artistic Director for a project that will cover the 84 pillars of the metro station in Puente Alto, Chile with mosaic. The 37 year old mother of two is determined that she and her crew of 32 people will complete all of the pillars – an estimated 2,500 square meters of mosaic – in just 12 months.

It was the mayor of Puento Alto, Manuel José Ossandon, who gave López the pillar challenge. As his last term as mayor was ending, Ossandon wanted to leave behind a gift to the community – something big, something bold, something transformational.  It started with mosaicing two long walls in the station.  These mosaics depicting the nearby mountain ranges at sunrise and sunset would be the first time that art would be incorporated into metro station in Chile.

When that ground-breaking project was completed, the mayor turned  to López once again, this time with the prospect of covering the 84 pillars.  At first, Lopez was daunted, “Impossible!  Too ambitious!”  Then, she was inspired.

We created the concept of showing the flora and fauna of our area and to do it from micro to macro. 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. – Isidora Paz López

Right now, 52 of the pillars are complete and another three underway.  The deadline for all 84 pillars is the end of October.

Simply put, the pillars are fantastic – alive with a vibrancy and joyfulness that is captivating. Insects, birds, reptiles, mammals, flowers, herbs, cacti, the large, the small, the intimidating, the adorable – all manner of species are represented in a graphic style that lends itself beautifully to mosaic technique.  Major elements are outlined with a thick black line that really makes them “pop” forward for the viewer. Even with limited access to tile, López and her team have created a cohesive palette that holds the 84 pillars together without a single visual glitch. The mosaics are engaging, stunning and elegant.

The challenge we have at the moment is to finish on time.  We are making the central figures of the mosaics with so much love that we take more time than we expect with every one.  We don’t want to reduce the quality of our work for the quantity of our work, so the challenge is to do it in the most fantastic and efficient way that we can.

Arana Pollito by Isidora López

López’ organization for making the mosaics is very similar to the way work was divided among ancient Roman mosaic workers.

Working in teams, we have four groups:  The Artists who make the designs and execute the principal figures in the mosaics, the Helpers who work alongside the Artists in creating the principal figures, the Background group, most of whom are students, who fill in the solid colors, and finally the Grouting group who also move the scaffolding for us from pillar to pillar.  We are 32 workers in total and we work Monday through Friday, six hours a day.

Each pillar starts with a photograph, sometimes one taken by López’ husband, German nature photographer Chris Lukhaup.  The pillar is then assigned to an individual artist (“Head of Pillar”) who is in charge of the four to six people will work with him/her.  After an overall design is agreed upon, all work of the work is executed on site.

On average it takes two weeks and 16 people to complete one pillar – and remember, there are 84 of them – and a deadline only three months away.

When we start a new pillar, we make a total visualization of the work, choosing the colors and also the language that we will use for the design.  Language is what we call the type of cuts we use, for example “feathers”, “scales”, “squares”, etc.

Asked if she has a favorite pillar, López says

It is hard to chose one, but at the moment it is the dragonfly.  It was a challenge for me to do because of the complex symmetry.  Now that it is complete, I really like the transparent effect of the wings a lot, but  – every week there is a new favorite.

Cruising through the hundreds of photos on López’ Facebook page, we found a couple of favorites . . . this fellow with his beautifully articulated fur, for one.

Then there’s this slithery charmer with his exquisitely shaped scales.

And, there is something about this face that just makes us giggle.

López says that the support from the Municipality of Puento Alto has been outstanding.

Our salaries (nice for artists!) and all of the materials are paid for by the Municipality of Puento Alto and I am grateful for their strong support of what we are doing.  Not only do I have the chance to select the people who will work with me, but the city has given me complete artistic control as well.  They also have provided us with a crew who help us with preparing the pillars – cleaning them and removing all graffiti before we begin, moving materials, security and making the scaffolding.  We could not do this without them.

When asked what she intends to do when the project is done, López says:

I don’t know!  This is a “dream job” – we do what we like and it has been wonderful to be assured of a good salary for almost a year!  I feel that many good things will come.  We have learned a lot as individual mosaicists but also as a group.  All that we know about organization, the dynamics of work, our systems and the unique style of our designs we have learned as we worked.  I don’t want to lose all of what we have gained as a team so my greatest hope is to continue working with this group of people and to fill up the streets with our art.


And the community’s response?

Every day people stop to comment on how beautiful the mosaics are and to thank us for what we are doing.  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.

“Creative Placemaking” is a term we came upon this week in an art publication.  It was used to describe “art projects that have enlivened and enhanced neighborhoods and communities.”  We think that is exactly what Ms. López and her group are doing in Puente Alto.  This is as stunning a public art project as we have seen anywhere.  It is also one of the most ambitious – its schedule, its scope, its beauty, its intention – everything is outsized and over-the-top.

With all that they have gained through this experience, we can see the mosaicists of Puente Alto packing their nippers to travel to distant cities to do a lot more Creative Placemaking.


It is now our pleasure to introduce you to the Pillar Team of Puente Alto.

Bravo a todos!

The Pillar Team of Puente Alto including:  Artistic Director Isidora Paz López, Alejandra Guzmán, Paulo Meyer, Valeria Merino, Carolina González, Gonzalo San Martín, Hector Velozo, Javiera Melo, Soledad Fuentealba, Nicolás Chacón, Sabrina Morgado, Catalina Larraín, Isabel González, José Olivos, Paloma Cale, Felipe Olivos

MORE MOSAIC IN PUENTE ALTO:  The success of the Pillar Project inspired the City to commission López and her crew to cover still more Metro installations.  There is now a total of over 3,000 sq meters of mosaic.  See our update with more fabulous photos HERE


  • Our 2014 story on the completed mosaics in Andamento, the journal of the British Association for Modern Mosaic

  • A MAN update on the project with meters of new work can be found here
  • More photos of the project can be found on López’ Facebook Page
  • López can be contacted via email at:


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  1. wendy schopbarteld


  2. wendy schopbarteld


  3. Wendy Low

    Fabulous stuff, awesome designs, courage beyond belief to attempt. Congrats! You saw my work in High Springs, Florida. I did Mosaic on instruments. I will now plan a trip some day to see your work. It is amazing.

  4. Valérie LAVIGNE

    Valérie Lavigne

    Buenos dias Isidora. Me llamo Valérie y soy coordinadora de una asociacion que se llama Mosaicités en Niza, Francia. Estoy interesada en contactar contigo para informarme sobre tu fantastico proyecto de Intervencion Urbana en Chile. Nuestra asociacion tambien trabaja con el mosaico. Te dejo aqui el enlace de nuestra pagina web ( y te pido que nos facilites un email o un teléfono de contacto para que podamos hacerte algunas preguntas sobre tu proyecto. Muchas gracias Isidora, y nuestra mas sincera enhorabuena.

  5. Jadra Daruich

    Hola Isidora! Habia visto tus trabajos en santiago, pero no tenia idea que eran tuyos! Son fantasticos!! Realmente toda una inspiraci{on! Llevo dos años estudiando mosaico y me he deleitado con tus obras.
    Me encantaria poder participar y colaborar en tus proyectos!! Si necesitas, cuenta conmigo..
    Un gran abrazo y mil felicitaciones por tu talento!!! Gracias por compartirlo!!

  6. María Leonor Moreno

    Congratulations Isidora Paz … you work is amazing … thanks for decorating the Metro Puente Alto and Avenida Vicuña Mackenna … and I thank the administration of former Mayor Manuel José Ossandón … for giving this tremendous opportunity to art … to you and all who journeyed by the sector and enjoy every day as beautiful colors and designs … a hug …

  7. Natural Home4u

    excelent, super!

    • Kelly from Colorado USA

      Absolutely stunning work! Congratulations to you and your crew. You’re an inspiration. I wish every city would support beautiful works of art throughout the community.

  8. Brenda

    Isaora, Congratulations to you and your team – this is amazingly beautiful work and I’m so thrilled that you are all being paid for your talent. Congratulations on getting the additional work too. You’re definitely making a great contribution to your community! Add me to your email list and let us know when you’re up on Facebook! Happy Holidays to you and your team!

  9. Moneca

    Greetings from Canada. The work here is inspirational and awe inspiring. Newbie to mosaics and am learning on the ‘job’ . One day I would love to come down to Chile and see this great work.
    Kinaskomitin (Thank You in Cree Language) for this great gift.

  10. Marcelo de Melo

    Great work. Felicitaciones por un trabajo muy hermoso.

  11. Laly

    felicitaciones por el trabajo que estan haciendo!!!!! magnifico!!!! espero

  12. Kelley Knickerbocker

    HUGE achievement, contribution and inspiration, Isidora! Proof that a good team with a good vision can accomplish anything! Can’t wait to see what’s next.

  13. Marcela Szkarlat

    Isidora, I was really astonished of your (and your team) work. Stunning! The other thing I am surprised is the great report you have on a foreing on line magazine ( and in Chile there are nothing about this wonderful work. Incredible! On this saturday, with my friend Nancy, both will go to see “on live” your work to Plaza Puente Alto metro. I love your perfect cutting and assembly between all the pieces, love the thematic of chilean flora and fauna in somes pillars too. I’m a beginner on this art, and you are one of my inspiring mosaicist. Good luck on future works!
    Marcela from Chile

    • Isidora Paz

      Gracias Marcela ! you know what? dont have more publicity about our work in Chile dont surprise me too much…what is really incredible is have this great article in Mosaic Art NOW !!! 😉 Estoy muy feliz y agradecida…por todo el trabajo hecho y por toda la repercusión que está teniendo… es emocionante saber que ustedes ( asi como otros) vendrán especialmente a verlo…) Thanks a lot !


    ¡¡¡¡CONGRATULATIONS!!!! It’s really beautiful, wonderful….. really no words to express the great work done by your team. ¡¡¡AWESOME!!!
    Nancy of CHILE

  15. Corinne Sempéré

    Hola Isadora, acaba de ver el trabajo del “team” en puente alto. Es realmente fabuloso y maravilloso. Tan reales los insectos y animales, lindos, elegantes, y tan ludico ………

    Corinne Sempéré, mosaiste (

  16. Luis Laso Casas

    First of all I would like to congratulate you and the team for your vision and ability to see it coming to fruition.
    I have enjoyed reading this wonderful insight into the project.
    The way you use such an imaginative and highly expressive tessellation complements and balances in a subtle way the use of a rather limited colour palette specially in the representation of the central decorative motifs and animals to capture the essence of mosaic art with such skill.

    • Isidora Paz

      Thanks Luis ! i enjoy also reading your words about our work, you express it very well…thanks a lot !

  17. Carrie Reichardt

    Thanks Nancie for sharing this….I have never had mosaic envy before , but this woman is a mosaic goddess.
    I think these are some of the most amazing mosaics I have seen!!!!

    • Isidora Paz López

      Thanks Carrie ! I just saw your work and i like it a lot…so is a total honor for me have your respect and this healthy envy for our work ;)…was nice to meet you on fb and i hope that we keep on contact…

  18. Shawn Newton

    ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC! Congratulations, Isadora et all!!

  19. Sue Betanzos

    Hermoso trabajo is right! We all love your incredible, inspirational work. Congratulations to you Isadora and your team for all of your amazing, hard work to make these dream designs a reality to share with your city and the world.
    You have inspired everyone “~))
    And thank you Nancie for bringing this the attention it deserves.

  20. Isidora Paz López

    I am so grateful ! have this fantastict article about our work and all your nice comments is for me like winn a prize, a prize to all the effort that we have been done, a prize that is higher of what i ever expect and is a reazon for be super proud… a ingection of energy for continue working with the great feeling that give us to know that we are making something good…and that the life give us a wonderful oportunity puting this project on our hands…Thanks to everybody ! Gracias a todos !

  21. Liliane Jonckheere

    Bravo voor Isadora en haar team dit is werkelijk prachtig en uniek.
    wij hebben hier een prachtige bibliotheek met betonnen pilaren, wat zou dit mooi zijn om te doen!

  22. aida valencia

    Felicidades Increible el trabajo tan detallado en sitio .Sera algo digno de ir a visitar en Chile,asi que nos urge visitarte Felicidades! de nuevo

    • Isidora Paz

      Muchas gracias ! Son bienvenidos 😉

  23. John Botica

    Nancie thank you so much for introducing people to this magical creations!
    Isidora,your work is truly beautiful!


    Hermoso trabajo,una gran obra de arte,felicitaciones a los artistas ,un gran proyecto llevado a cabo con gran profesionalidad y éxito.

  25. Lillian Sizemore

    I agree with Julie – a new mosaic travel destination is born. Glorious work and great photos. What an incredible match up of nature imagery with precision setting techniques. The variety of cuts and textures of the tile adds so much to the rendering of the beautifully varied subject matter. A Herculean undertaking with inspired results. Creative Placemaking = Puento Alto – a High Point for sure! Bravo to the municipality for trusting the artists with creative control AND paying them. Thanks Nancie.

    • Isidora Paz

      Thanks a lot Julie ! this work is like reality show on the street every day, and the winter time is part of it in this moment and give us a lot of problems…some times we feel like a real warriors of the art with this big mission…and receive your congratulations and all the support from far, more now after this wonderful article that Nancie publish about your our work…is great ! I can just give thanks!!!

    • Isidora Paz

      Thanks for your words Lillian ! All of you are welcome !!!…and will be an honor and pleasure if this happen and some day we meet here on our mosaico rout…;)

  26. george ehling

    its magnificent a great team effort with a great leader. ive worked alone on my project for over forty years and will probably never finish, but i have made it my life. bravo to all of you and i hope you can keep going on to other projects. this work is so original and wonderful

  27. Julie

    Thank you, Nancie, for bringing this project the attention it deserves. It’s a stunning accomplishment and I am crazy about the designs. I can’t believe they assemble this on site, even in winter! Congratulations to Isidora and her remarkable team. It’s going to be a mosaic pilgrimage site when it’s finished, and a very worthy one.

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