Have you ever heard Buenos Aires referred to as the Paris of South America? This moniker has a lot to do with the architecture of the city; though this European-style architecture can be appreciated in other places throughout the country apart from Buenos Aires, too. Argentina’s architecture is often admired not only for its European influence, but more specifically because of how many different European styles (i.e. French, Spanish, English, etc) are often represented side by side.
Though while Buenos Aires may have a reputation for interesting architecture, that doesn’t mean that it’s all old and European-influenced. In the latter part of the last century new “70’s styles” of architecture began popping up around the city.
So how much do you know about architecture in Argentina? Why not take this quick quiz to find out?
1) Name the building in Buenos Aires that resembles a gigantic aqua blue war ship, bellows architectural brutalism, and almost plunges into Parque Centenario?
2) What yellow and grey concrete, brutalism building looks like it could be the headquarters of the Ministry of Love (from the book 1984), was once directed by Borges, took 19 years to build and was finally inaugurated in 1992 by then president Carlos Menem?
3) What building is only a few blocks from Casa Rosada, thunders in architectural brutalism like the two aforementioned buildings and only took six years to build?
If you guessed Hospital Naval Central, Biblioteca Nacional, and Banco de Londres and América del Sur then give yourself a wee pat on the back. But can you name the Italian born Porteño architect that designed all three of these amazing examples of brutalist architecture?
The answer is Clorindo Testa.
Born in Naples Italy in 1923, Clorindo moved to Buenos Aires months after birth. When he was very young he liked making boats, which may lead one to believe that it was for this motive that he briefly studied at the college of naval engineering at La Plata University. It’s no wonder that the Naval Hospital resembles a large warship. He later graduated from the University of Buenos Aires school of Architecture, where he would eventually teach as well, and was awarded his first project in 1955, the Centro Cívico de Santa Rosa.
In 1968 a friend of Clorindo’s contracted him to build his house, Casa Di Tella. The house was made as a metaphor of the typical design for homes in Buenos Aires, la casa chorizo. This type of home has a long patio divided by a hallway and separate rooms, each next to each other (like chorizos on a grill). Despite the fact that the Casa Di Tella was eventually demolished in 2011, Clorindo said that he didn’t mind because he wasn’t the owner and that naturally throughout the year’s styles and trends in architecture change.
Apart from designing some of the most iconic buildings in Buenos Aires, did you know that Clorindo Testa, Juan Fontana and Oscar Lorenti designed the Konex Cultural Center in Abasto? The building was once an oil factory and in 1992 they redesigned it and installed a giant orange staircase that ascends the building.
Written by Brian Athey