Keys to read Buenos Aires architecture

There are 7 replies in this Thread. The last Post () by Carlos.

  • One of the things that attracted me most to Buenos Aires was the variety of architecture that this city boasts.

    Some buildings and houses I can clearly associate to French architecture, English or Italian, but some look quite unique to me.

    For example, the many single-houses with red bricks and wooden details.

    Is there a book or a webpage where these styles can be checked? And in which respects they differ from the original styles?

    Maybe Carlos can point out a book.

  • Excellent questions, serafina ! I have also wondered about the lovely single-family homes made of dark red brick and varnished wood, that to me, look almost Swiss or Austrian.

  • The fact that Buenos Aires has many, varied buildings of different styles is the result of the times that since 1850 we received many different stocks of inmigrants, mostly from western and central Europe. Of course we inherited the Spanish colonial practised until 1810, but as the cultural development of the country remain still until 1850, and the importance of Buenos Aires inside the Spanish Empire was not important (Mexico and Peru were much more), the houses, even of the rich ones were simple and not notable for its lavishness.

    But after 1850 we received a cultured inmigration from France, Italy, Germany and the UK, and landowners people became suddenly rich, very rich because of the intensive use of the lands of the pampa.

    The invention of the refrigerator ship, the barbed wire fences, the imports of special cattle races

    and the extensions of the railways developed a great income and commerce with several countries, especially with the UK, which was our best client and supplier of industrial goods.

    That is the reason why you found here magnificent palaces, mostly built from 1880 to 1920.

    But also smaller homes were built by the increasing amount of middle class people.

    I have a lot of information and I will try to put it in a pen drive, to be sent to all interested in that topic. In fact, one of my duties as a professor of History of Architecture is speaking about BA history, especially that from 1850 onwards.

    By the way, I am not that haughty patriot that thinks that BA is Paris, but for being in Latin America

    it has a good average of architectural quality.

  • I am browsing online for pictures of the kind of house I found very unique of here. I am curious to know where this style came from or if it is made up.

    I think the roof is too flat to be Alpine-like as Rice suggests. The following are two houses I found browsing for houses for sale.



  • Thank you, Carlos , for this background and for information to come. Like serafina , I would like to know more about the architecture of Argentina.

    serafina , I have never seen houses similar to the photos you posted. I will try to find an example of the type I was describing.

  • These houses are not related with Alpine building, but related with the Prairie houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, (see the cantilevered border of the roof) and adapted to the brick masonry construction of our region.

    Alpine buildings has not very pitched roofs, as they do not want to let fall the snow. Curiously, they like to have a thick layer of snow that serves to insulate the exterior (that it is perhaps a -15°C) with a layer of snow that has 0°C.

    It was de ideal home for the upper medium class until the 1990's, when the taste changed. Now the usual houses are pieces of square blocks, perhaps with a simple cornice, and flat roofs, very boring, in my opinion. Nowadays to build a brick masonry wall, without covering it, is very expensive (a few artisans to that today) and they use industrial ceramic blocks covered with a layer of colored mortar.

  • Thank you for your explanation. So we would say it is North-American inspired (not to offend anyone by saying 'American-inspired').

    And do you think that home built in foreign taste do also maintain the same authentic features also on the inside?

    To me, they more or less look all the same inside.

    I do agree with your comment about the lack of features of modern buildings, they look like factories and I do not see myself living there.

  • It is North American inspire but not from popular origins, is only the result of the admiration that Frank Lloyd Wright generated in many architects of the 1940's and 1950´s.

    Other curious style is what we call "estilo californiano". This was in fashion in the 1940's and 1950, but not to praise hispanical roots, but to copy the residences that the famous actresses and actors of Hollywood used to have at that time. In USA they call it "Mission Style", as it is very similar to the buildings of the old Spanish California.

    A good example to see it in Google is the Santa Barbara County building, California, designed by anglo saxons architects who were fascinated by the Spanish colonial style. This was a good custom of the newcomers (the anglo saxon Americans), which respected the old names of the cities of California: Los Angeles, San Francisco,, San Diego, etc...and also respect the old culture.

    They were includers, not excluders!