Places of Modern Architecture to Visit: 2
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Autonomous City of Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after Greater São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent. The Greater Buenos Aires conurbation, which also includes several Buenos Aires Province districts, constitutes the third-largest conurbation in Latin America, with a population of around thirteen million.
Buenos Aires architecture is characterized by its eclectic nature, with elements resembling Barcelona, Paris and Madrid. There is a mix, due to immigration, of Colonial, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Neo-Gothic and French Bourbon styles. Italian and French influences increased after the declaration of independence at the beginning of the 19th century, though the academic style persisted until the first decades of the 20th century.
Attempts at renovation took place during the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, when European influences penetrated into the country, reflected by several buildings of Buenos Aires such as the Iglesia Santa Felicitas by Ernesto Bunge; the Palace of Justice, the National Congress, and the Teatro Colón, all of them by Vittorio Meano.
The simplicity of the Rioplatense baroque style can be clearly seen in Buenos Aires through the works of Italian architects such as André Blanqui and Antonio Masella, in the churches of San Ignacio, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, the Cathedral and the Cabildo.
In 1912 the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento was opened to the public. Totally built by the generous donation of Mrs. Mercedes Castellanos de Anchorena, Argentina’s most prominent family, the church is an excellent example of French neo-classicism. With extremely high-grade decorations in its interior, the magnificent Mutin-Cavaillé coll organ (the biggest ever installed in an Argentine church with more than four-thousand tubes and four manuals) presided the nave. The altar is full of marble, and was the biggest ever built in South America at that time.
In 1919 the construction of Palacio Barolo began. This was South America’s tallest building at the time, and was the first Argentine skyscraper built with concrete (1919–1923). The building was equipped with 9 elevators, plus a 20-metre high lobby hall with paintings in the ceiling and Latin phrases embossed in golden bronze letters. A 300,000-candela beacon was installed at the top (110 m), making the building visible even from Uruguay. In 2009 the Barolo Palace went under an exhausive restoration, and the beacon was made operational again.
In 1936 the Kavanagh building was inaugurated, with 120 metres height, 12 elevators (provided by Otis) and the world’s first central air-conditioning system (provided by north-American company “Carrier”), is still an architectural landmark in Buenos Aires.
The architecture of the second half of the 20th century continued to reproduce French neoclassic models, such as the headquarters of the Banco de la Nación Argentina built by Alejandro Bustillo, and the Museo Hispanoamericano de Buenos Aires of Martín Noel. However, since the 1930s the influence of Le Corbusier and European rationalism consolidated in a group of young architects from the University of Tucumán, among whom Amancio Williams stands out. The construction of skyscrapers proliferated in Buenos Aires until the 1950s. Newer modern high-technology buildings by Argentine architects in the last years of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st include the Le Parc Tower by Mario Álvarez, the Torre Fortabat by Sánchez Elía and the Repsol-YPF tower by César Pelli.