It only takes walking along the streets of cities like Buenos Aires to notice the distinct features of Argentine architecture. Like the country itself, Argentina’s architectural heritage is the result of a wealth of international influences, with buildings across the city varying from imposing, Haussman-style apartment blocks to radically modern, conceptual designs.
Though the county’s older architecture owes itself to Spanish colonisation and the influx of European immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century, the international element of the country’s architecture has still not been lost. And with a continual input from overseas, architecture today has retained a unique sense of diversity.
With this same element of internationality at its centre, the ‘Argentine Architects in the World’ exhibition begins with an explanation of recent architecture. Aiming to show how Argentine architecture is not solely international in its influences, the exhibition explains how, due to the recurring difficult economic situations in the 20th century, architects in Argentina have been forced to find work elsewhere. When they returned, not only did they come back with a wealth of international influences, they had also injected Argentina’s architecture into different cities around the world.
Luis J. Grossman and Daniel O. Casoy are the curators of the exhibition which is now in its ninth year and is presently showing at the Centro Cultural Recoleta for the first time. Part of a larger organisation of the same name, the architects shown at ‘Argentine Architects in the World’ have each been chosen for their unique input into architecture and what results is arguably a collection of the most important names in the contemporary architectural world.
The exhibition is split into two parts, with one room dedicated to the collections of previous years. Photos and diagrams accompany profiles of architects, and although admittedly the commentaries can sometimes be overly proud in their tone, this part of the exhibition is, nonetheless, a fascinating run-through some of Argentina’s most important architectural names.
Walking around the room is like going on a tour with an expert guide. Familiar faces of buildings such as the Catholic University of Argentina and the MALBA gallery mean that, even if architecture isn’t your speciality, this exhibition never fails to be interesting and offers a unique insight into your surroundings in Buenos Aires. Looking at Argentine architecture in cities such as Miami, Munich and Madrid, ‘Argentine Architects in the World’ also offers a point of comparison between architecture in Argentina and the rest of the world.
This year’s version of the exhibition is, however, a cut above the efforts of past years. For the first time in the exhibition’s history, original drawings of the buildings and constructions we pass on a daily basis are on display in their very earliest stages. The inclusion of the drawings – perhaps the result of the exhibition being held in an art space for the first time – means the exhibition cannot simply be described as “architectural.” The drawings are practically art objects in their own right, exposing a sense of creativity unique to each architect. Among them are Eduardo Catalano’s highly detailed drawings of his masterpiece La Floralis Generica – the huge, mechanical, silver flower in Recoleta – offering a previously unseen element of one of the most recognisable architectural successes in Buenos Aires. Standing in contrast to more colourful pieces, or those with more mathematical calculations, this year’s collection betrays a unique sense of each architect’s personality.
Architecture may not be something you know a lot about. But even if it isn’t your thing, this exhibition is a great way to get to know the strengths of the Argentine architecture that surrounds us every day. This year’s more creative side, and the detailed insights into each architect mean that this year, architecture in Argentina just became a lot more accessible.