Buenos Aires Travel Planet

Buenos Aires visitor’s guide

Architecture of Buenos Aires

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Buenos Aires’ architecture is very ecclectic, reflecting its different historical time periods and various cultural influences. In many parts of the city the different architectural styles blend together, whereas certain neighborhoods are characterized by a specific style.  Buenos Aires’ colonial heritage is best observed in the city’s historic sectors of Monserrat and San Telmo.  The area surrounding Plaza San Martin, Recoleta and Palermo Chico contain the palatial mansions that were built to please Buenos Aires’ early 20th century aristocracy.  Retiro, San Nicolás and Puerto Madero have towering skyscrapers of glass and concrete that remind us that, despite its nostalgic past, Buenos Aires is indeed a modern capital of the world.

The best way to appreciate the city’s architectural beauties is to stroll through certain areas and look upwards to observe the details of ornate facades, domes and towers.  Two of the best architectural walks include:

Avenida de Mayo – from Plaza de Mayo to Plaza de los Dos Congresos
This tree-lined avenue connects the Casa Rosada, seat of the executive branch of government, with the Congreso Nacional, the legislative seat of government.  Along the way you can enjoy the beautiful French art nouveau architecture from the early 20th century.  Many of these buildings have domes of different sizes and colors.

Avenida Alvear – from Cerrito to Plaza Alvear
Aside from the designer brand and exclusive jewelry stores, you can see numerous demi-palaces built in the French belle époque style of the turn of the 20th century.

As with all other art forms, architectural beauty is a matter of personal preference, making it difficult to come up with a listing of “the best”.  Surely, as you travel throughout Buenos Aires, you will discover your own favorite buildings; however, here is a partial list of some of the city’s architectural treasures.

Kavanaugh building
Florida 1055, Retiro
Architects Gregorio Sánchez, Ernesto Lagos and Luis María de la Torre, blended modernism and art deco with a rationalistic approach in this state-of-the-art luxury apartment building.  At the time of its opening in 1936 it was the highest reinforced concrete structure in the world, the tallest building in South America, and the first in Buenos Aires to have centralized air conditioning.  It was named a national historic monument in 1999. This is a must visit building in Buenos Aires architecture terms.

Edificio República
Tucumán 531, San Nicolás
This 21-story tower, inaugurated in 1994, was created by the award winning Argentine architect César Pelli.  This post modern glass structure elegantly combines straight, circular, and concave lines.

Faculty of engineering
Avenida Paseo Colón 850
A replica of the Facultad de Derecho located in Recoleta, this building represents the neoclasical monumental style used in government buildings in the 1940s and 1950s to simbolize the state’s power.  This building originally housed the Fundación de Ayuda Social Eva Peron, Evita’s social assistance foundation.

Galería Güemes
Florida 165, Centro (downtown)
This was considered the city’s first skyscrapper when it was built in 1915 with state-of-the-art technology and luxuries.  It originally housed residential apartments, a cabaret and restaurant.  Today it has a shopping gallery on the ground floor and business offices.

Iglesia de San Ignacio
Bolívar 225, Monserrat
This is the oldest church in the city and forms part of the Manzana de Las Luces.  Created by Jesuit and Italian designers, it contains five chapels and the exterior reflects its barroque influence.

Mercado del Abasto
Avenida Corrientes 3247, Abasto
This beautiful example of 1930s art deco architecture for over 50 years served as Buenos Aires’ central wholesale food produce market.  It was later abandoned for many years, then renovated and turned into the city’s largest shopping mall.

Palacio de Aguas Corrientes
Avenida Córdoba & Riobamba
This “palace” was designed by Scandanavian designers and built by a British construction company with the purpose of containing the city’s water supply. Its style and its ochre and blue-green colors are reminiscent of the style of the Second Empire.  The colorful terracota tile were made and shipped from England.  Over 170,000 of these tiles and more than 130,000 enamel bricks were used in this impressive building.  To create a sense of national unity, it is decorated with the provincial coat of arms of the fourteen provinces and the capital which at the time of its completion in 1894 comprised the Argentine Republic.  It was named a national historic monument in 1987.

Palacio Barolo
Avenida de mayo 1370, Monserrat
Completed in 1923, this building was commissioned by Luis Barolo, an Italian immigrant with newfound wealth, and was designed by his compatriot, the Italian architect Mario Palanti.  At its completion in 1923, it was the tallest building in South America. It later lost that title to the Kavanaugh building which opened in 1935.  Built in an ecclectic style, this is Palanti’s tribute to Dante’s Divine Comedy.  The 22-story office building is divided into three “sections”: the basement and ground floors represent hell, floors 1-14 represent purgatory and the rest of the upper floors represent heaven.  The building stands 100 meters tall, one meter for each canto (song) of the Divine Comedy.  Palacio Salvo in Montevideo, Uruguay is its “twin” building; the two were built to figuratively form a “gateway” to the Rio de la Plata.

Cementerio de la Recoleta

The Cementerio de la Recoleta has over 4,700 ornate tombs and mausoleums spread over more than five hectares. Many of these tombs have been created by important Buenos Aires architects and are adorned with sculptures. Over ninety of these have been declared a National Historic Monument.

Palacio del Congreso
Hipólito Yrigoyen 1849, Congreso
Built in Greco-Roman style, this impressive palace is the current seat of the national legislature.  One of its most note worthy features is its 30,000 ton, bronze-plated dome measuring 80 meters in height.  The Camara de Diputados and Salon de los Pasos Perdidos are its two most lavish chambers.

Palacio San Martín (formerly Palacio Anchorena)
Arenales 761, Retiro
This palace, one of several surrounding Plaza San Martin, was built at the beginning of the 20th century for the artistocratic Anchorena family.   The architect, Alejandro Christophersen, based his design on a Parisian hotel created by his award winning mentor, Jean Louis Pascal.   What appears as one large complex, actually consisted of three individual houses.  In 1936 the national government purchased the palace and installed the Ministry of External Affairs.  It currently serves as the ministry’s ceremonial site (its offices have been relocated to a new office building nearby) and contains a collection of pre-colombian art, art by 20th century Argentine and American artists and a library specializing in international law and the history of international relations.  This is a  must visit palace in Buenos Aires architecture terms. This national historic monument is open to the public and free guided tours are offered.

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