The now obsolete Palacio Ortiz Basualdo Dorrego was once a luxurious residence in front of the famous Plaza San Martin, in Buenos Aires. This large mansion occupied half a block in Maipu, and Arenales Streets was designed by the Belgian architect Jules Dormal in 1904 for Mrs. Magdalena Dorrego de Ortiz Basualdo for her eldest, Ines Ortiz Basualdo member of important aristocratic families in Argentina at the end of the 19th century. Later the part of the palace was negotiated to be sold to the Russian embassy but with no great interest from either the national or municipal government to buy the house, it was hence demolished in 1933. The land then was used to build two apartment buildings in the 1950s and the American Express building in the 1980s. The other palace for Daniel Ortiz Basualdo, second son of Mrs. Dorrego de Ortiz Basualdo of the same name was located on another street and is now in use as the headquarters of the Embassy of France, architect French Paul Peter in 1912.

Ortiz Basualdo Palacio by Jules Dormal: Luxury lost with time - Sheet1
Ortiz Basualdo Palacio ©

The mansion was awarded the First Prize for the Best Façade in its annual competition. The Beaux-Arts style palace was seen as a single unit, with two adjacent but independent residences. Grouped among Plaza San Martin, Avenida Alvear, and adjacent streets, architecture was one of the main styles that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century. Three large residences were designed in the taste of various European cultures with a tint of French, which was emerging as Argentine agro-livestock fortunes. This mansion closed an exquisite palatial arch around Plaza San Martín, along with the anchorena, Paz, Haedo, Sánchez Elía, etc. palaces. etc.

Ortiz Basualdo Palacio by Jules Dormal: Luxury lost with time - Sheet2
Ortiz Basualdo Palacio ©

One of the primal examples of architecture that emerged through family successions and the emergence of rationalism in the architecture of that time and thus putting an end to both aesthetic exhaustion and the economic reality of that time. The palace occupied the half block of Basavilbaso, Arenales and Maipú. The palace was spread in approximately 6,800 m sq. distributed in 4 floors with two independent residences and only shared the winter garden and the garden that followed. The largest of them was within 4000 m sq. of the accessed entrance.The building had an integral aspect in its four exterior facades making it one of the very few on the street of Buenos Aires at that time that did not have dividing walls. It was said that the model of the residence was to be imitated from the characteristics of French styled private hotel but this type of housing collided with the lands of Buenos Aires and it was said that Dormal had to resign from his position “cour d’honneur’ or ‘entrance of honor’ to design such residence that met the wishes of Mrs. Derrago. 

It came with many political differences and criticism. Ezequiel Martínez Estrada’s poem “Buenos Aires”, published in 1927, summed up the same street as “sumptuous palaces and palaces/even more sumptuous outside, don Carlos Pellegrini’s statue wrapped in a seat and flag”. The demolition was another controversy and was called out as one of the many negligence of the government towards the architectural and cultural history. The style was preferred by Argentine aristocrats who followed the dictates of European fashion and adopted the French Architecture for its ‘chic-style’. It increased the rich and almost extinct Argentine Architectural heritage. 

It was one of the many homogenous set of French-style mansions which made up the still existing Paz and Anchorena palaces in the streets of Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is a city with diverse architectural influences, especially from Italy, Spain, and France. The famous Parisian flair can still be found in San Martin Palace. Many other small buildings were added such as Haedo Palace, which later was used as the headquarters of the National Parks, the Sanchez, and the Pereyra Iraola, which was later demolished. In 1894 the Argentine Pavilion was installed in the square, built for the Universal Exposition of 1889 in Paris, and then later was shipped to the street of Buenos Aires.

Ortiz Basualdo Palacio by Jules Dormal: Luxury lost with time - Sheet3
Ortiz Basualdo Palacio ©

The palace was also an imposing and luxurious home to the Museum of Fine Arts. Jules Dormal was later asked to design many other buildings with the same inspiration as the palace. Some of them still are present on Arenales Street. It was no doubt one of the most gigantic and luxurious residences of the street that had to have the misfortune of falling under real estate speculation. The conservation of heritage and culture all around the world has always been in a tough spot, yet the streets of Arenales thrive without this residence. But what was lost will never be recovered again. The beauty of the Palace cannot be seen again and it’s important to shed light on the preservation of much such architectural heritage.


Ashmita Gupta is an Architecture student who believes art is the medicine of life. A book sniffer and an indie music addict, she is often driven with curiosity and hence finds her thrill in art and literature.

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