A lambent jewel in the crown of Latin America, Argentina is a vast country that spans over 3500 kilometres. It has a world-class infrastructure and stands proud of all its natural gems. It is undoubtedly the perfect celebration of culture and tradition. The building practices in the history of Argentina have stemmed from popular wisdom, cultural inflows, use of native materials and interventions. This keeps in mind the bioclimatic features vis a vis, dry climate and high seismicity.

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Argentina ©Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty

Vernacular Architecture

Spanning over the Argentine Cuyo region, the vernacular architecture used natural building materials and focused on avoiding destabilizing the natural ecosystems. Indigenous development with a systemized use of water for buildings and low, single-storey buildings with thick adobe walls are also observed in Argentina. There was scarcely any difference between urban and rural infrastructure at the time. A few examples of such vernacular settlements include Casuchas de la cordillera, the temporary shelters made out of baked brick and lime mortar. 

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Casuchas de la cordillera at Las Cuevas ©darcacha

Capilla del Rosario de las Lagunas is another example of vernacular architecture in Argentina, which was a traditional chapel. It was also built up of adobe walls and had only one, very narrow nave. The planning was indeed quite simple.

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Capilla del Rosario de las Lagunas ©Adriana Lui

European Influence In Architectural Styles

Furthermore, an architectural revelation occurred in Argentina during the Spanish colonization, which reached its splendour in the 18th century. This style was majorly a work of inspiration from Spain. It was popularly known as the plateresque style and was characterized by highly sculptural, very arabesque décor with heavily ornamented architectural elements. 

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San Fransisco Church ©rterry/pixabay

This style is still well preserved and prevalent in the Salta city of Argentina, and a famous example of the style is the San Francisco Convent of Salta. Fray Vicente Muñoz built the church in 1796 with a long, thin nave made of stones. This stems from the vernacular style of construction. However, the Spanish colonial features of the church include colourful walls, red and golden paintworks, highly detailed sculptures and magnificent tapestry.

Argentina saw a great deal of influence from classical styles of architecture which stemmed from Europe and were taken up by many famous Italian architects based in Argentina including, Virginio Colombo, Francisco Gianotti, Vittorio Meano, Mario Planti etc. They worked in lines of styles including the Baroque style, Italian and French neoclassical styles, art Nouveau etc. All these styles and forms of architecture added a great deal of essence to the Country’s evolving traditions and design. 

One such example is the Banco de la Nación Argentina. It was a creation of Alejandro Bustillo and is based on European neoclassical Architecture. The bank stands as an elaborate building in the capital with typical neoclassical features, including blank walls, Corinthian columns, the Pantheon above the entrance and a visible sense of grandeur.

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Banco de la Nación ©Chipppy/Wikipedia.org

Another notable example is the water company palace, which was designed in 1877. Despite being a water pumping station for the city of Buenos Aires, this ultra grand building adds charm to the capital’s classical architecture. It is a magnificent building with a beautiful mansard roof, terracotta tiles, heavily ornamented window crests and keystones, beautifully detailed cornices etc. 

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Palacio de aguas ©corrientes

Politics And Architectural Reforms

A lot of factors influenced the socio-political status of the country, which directly or indirectly impacted the architectural and urban aesthetics in Argentina. In the early 20th century itself, six governments were changed and the country alternated between military rule, restricted democracy and complete democracy. This was the time when not many reforms occurred in the field of architecture. But when Peronism overtook the country, a period of architectural eclecticism and rationalism was seen, which was subjugated with promotional policies, technological interventions, heritage management, etc. 

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Le Corbusier rose as a prominent architect at the time. One of his famous buildings in Argentina was the Curutchet house, La Plata. It’s a very well known exemplification of Corbusier’s “ 5 points of architecture “ theory, which mimics the traditional Argentine courtyard house. It faced the Paseo del Bosque Park and was a residential building for Dr Curutchet in 1948. It has now been restored and declared as a national landmark.

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Curutchet House ©Olivier-Martin Gambier

Present-Day Argentina

With so much history and architectural reforms, Argentina sees a huge mix of architectural styles. The designs of buildings in the present day are practically prime real estate and contemporary nature. The designs are a reflection of highly independent styles, which keep up with the modernization and development in the country. Many new and contemporary buildings have been established amongst the fine historic grain of the Country, which showcases Deconstructivism, Brutalism, Minimalism, etc. 

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MALBA ©malba.org

For instance, MALBA, which is the Latin American museum of art, was built by Gaston Attelmen, Martin Fourcode and Alfredo Tapia in 2001. With juxtaposed volumes and polyhedron figures, it is a good display of deconstructive style. Many skyscrapers have also proliferated in the country, including the 31 storeys high glass cladded tower Carlos Pelligrini in Bueno Aires. The Alvear Tower in Puerto Madero, which is the highest tower in Argentina, is another example of Skyscrapers in the Country. It is a mixed-use tower with residential and hotel land use.

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Carlos Pelligrini Tower ©Elsapucai
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Alvear Tower ©Maximiliano Moratti-Inmobidrone

What Does The Future Hold?

Just like the architectural developments across the globe, the future holds a huge scope for high technological advancements in the design field, which will probably hold its focus on sustainability, companionable urbanization and articulated functionality woven with the formulation. The country is in a continuous state of adaptation and change, which will only improve its outlook and livability.

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A few examples of upcoming projects in Argentina include the New Trade fair building in Mendoza, which is a brainchild of architects Mario Corea and Eugenio Tioni. Another example is the Bicentennial civic centre in Cordoba, which will uplift the city’s vibrancy by setting in the historic core, etc.

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New Trade Fair building ©Mario Corea & Eugenio Tioni Architects

Argentina has seen vast developments in the field of architecture, from unconsciously developing the vernacular buildings for the sole purpose of shelter to designing classical European and colonial buildings with woven intricacies and further creating visions for highly technologically advanced establishments. The past, present and future of architecture in Argentina reflect the authenticity and advancement of Argentine culture.

Author

Ayushi is an architect with a sensitivity towards global architecture and its cultural importance. She is also an exemplary artist which in turn helps her in capturing the essence of creative and colourful endeavours across the world.A keen interest in writing, researching and curating has led her to venture into the field of Architectural Journalism.

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