Architecture of Buenos Aires
27 Jan 2010 04:36 EST

Before I decided to major in Computer Science, I looked at schools for Architecture. And while I obviously never majored in it, I still am drawn to it. I eventually ran across a blog called Scouting NY a year or so ago, and it instantly became one of the feeds I would look forward to in my feed reader. The Scout's job is to scout locations for films, and in doing so he blogs about some of the interesting things you can see in NYC if you actually pay attention. He's shown me some amazing sights in New York - and even better he's taught me to open my own eyes and find them for myself. I thought I would pay him some homage and show three buildings that have struck me while I'm staying in Buenos Aires.

Firstly, I have this building - which I know nothing about. It's on Belgrano a few streets south of Plaza de Mayo - and as far as I know it just an apartment building. But compare it to the buildings next to it - it's clearly an order of magnitude more impressive. Take a look at the facade - the tiny faux-balconies, the columns running down it, and the bay windows at the corner.

And then there's two incredible sets of ornamentation. First is the statutes. In Buenos Aires they're refered to as Las Caras - literally The Faces. Each seems to be supporting the weight of the building on his shoulders, and each is slightly different - one is holding a pickaxe, another a chain.

The other piece of ornamentation is the eagles near the top of the building. Above the eagles, there is what appears to be a private balcony - and above that are the towers. It looks like one of the spires has a crown on top and the other a weathervane. The bottom of the building is shop or restaurant space that is for sale.

The next building is about as opposite as you can get - but I still love it. It's an all-concrete structure built in the 60s or 70s. It's located in the banking district - near Buenos Aires' Wall Street equivalent, with narrow streets that make it impossible to get a good shot of the entire building from the street. As we move down towards the front door you can see the structure of the building opening up into a sunk-back front door. Complete with an amazing meeting room above the street.

The last building is the most beautiful building I think I have ever seen. I'll give you the glamour shot and just get it over with.

This is one of three buildings for the School of Engineering at UBA (University of Buenos Aires). The building began construction in 1912, it has a segment on the Spanish Wikipedia. The architect was a man named Arturo Prins, and there's some intrigue as to his death - my Spanish is not that great, and google translate does its best but isn't perfect - the rumor is that he committed suicide because he wasn't able to complete the building due to funding and construction miscalculations. In fact, I'm unable to determine the provenance of this photo but if you were to take it at face value - the building is only half as tall as it should be!

As you move around the building, the most striking feature to me is the dual balconies. (I'm actually not entirely sure they are balconies - they may be inaccessible except for climbing through windows - but I would find that difficult to believe.) The first balcony is immense - large enough for a snazzy cocktail party overlooking the street. It reminds me of Gaudí's immense plaza above a plaza in Park Güell in Barcelona. Above that is smaller balcony that reminds me of the elite of the elite looking down on their subjects. (Okay, actually, it reminds me of the balcony scene in the first Spider-Man.)

Slide around the corner, and you see another balcony running along the side of the building. If there was ever a place to hold a fancy reception on a Spring Evening - this would surely be it. Looking at it from the back, we can see that it is rather massive. However, it has also acquiesced to time. A giant tower projects out of it, and it is in poor repair. Grass grows out of its roof, the entire thing needs to be repointed to repair the brickwork (and having looked into that for a building much smaller - I can tell you that's a >$10m project), and I'm not sure why but there are support beams protruding from some corners and areas. There seems to be a large family of cats living in its backyard also.

I don't know what will happen to this building - The Engineering School has two other, much newer and much larger buildings. This particular building is in a very nice area of town, with a lot of shops and even more apartment buildings, next to a park, on a major street. Taken all together... it wouldn't look good. I don't know if it's protected by any laws, if it's being repaired, or any rumors regarding its fate. But I sincerely hope it gets repaired, and in a manner that preserves the look of it (specifically the brick coloring). In closing, I'll leave you with my favorite place to be in all of Buenos Aires.

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