Buenos Aires Travel Planet

Buenos Aires visitor’s guide

Palacio Barolo


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The Palacio Barolo, located downtown on Avenida de Mayo, is one of the most fascinating buildings in Buenos Aires, from both architectural standpoint and a historical one.

Luis Barolo was an Italian immigrant, who arrived in Argentina in 1890. He made a killing in the textile industry, through the importation of textiles and cotton spinning machinery, of which he was the first person to import. He also began the cultivation of cotton in Chaco.

He had already been thinking of an architectural project when he met Mario Palanti, whom he then commissioned to develop the idea. Barolo, like many European immigrants in Argentina, believed the European continent was doomed, due to a series of wars that would supposedly take place in the near future. Barolo was concerned about preserving the Italian poet Dante Aligheri’s work, and wanted his building to be inspired by one of the poet’s most famous pieces, The Divine Comedy.

After buying the plot, which was 1365 square meters, he began to plan with Palanti for what would be the tallest building in South America, and one of the tallest in the world. In fact, they had to receive special permission from the mayor, as the building — at 100 meters tall — was nearly four times the height allowed on the avenue at that time. The cupola is 90 meters high, and the additional 10 meters comes from the self-powered rotating lighthouse, which is visible even from Uruguay, across the river.

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The architect was also a fan of Aligheri, and the 22 floors of the building were divided into three sections, each representing a part of The Divine Comedy. The 2-floor basement and ground floor together represent hell, floors 1-14 are purgatory, and floors 15-22 are heaven. The 100-meter height is symbolic, as well, as each meter represents one canto of The Divine Comedy.

After four years of building, the structure was completed in 1923, holding the title of the tallest building in all of South America. It continued to be the city’s tallest building until the Kavanagh Building was completed in 1935. In 1997, this unique building was given the honor of becoming a national historic monument. You can also check for other activities in this Buenos Aires travel guide.

Today, the building serves as offices, mostly for lawyers, although there is also a Spanish language school and a tango clothing store and theatre in the basement.

The building was built in the Eclectic style, and maintains its grand façade and interior architecture, even today. It is quite a gem, and is well worth a visit while in Buenos Aires.

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