Buenos Aires’ architecture, part I: 4 colonial buildings

Buenos Aires’ architecture brings together different styles as a result of its several immigration waves. Colonial, neoclassical, art nouveau, art deco and different modern styles coexist eclectically in the city and give it its characteristic beautiful, yet caothic look.

In this first article about Buenos Aires’ architecture, you’ll learn about the most important colonial buildings in Buenos Aires, which are some of the oldest we have. And the best thing? You can visit them all!

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1- Buenos Aires Cabildo, Monserrat.

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Buenos Aires Cabildo, seat of the colonial administration, occupies the same place since 1580. However, the building underwent successive modifications.

By 1608, the Cabildo had adobe walls and thatched roof. Inside, it just had a meeting room and another space that served as a prison. But by the middle of XVII century, the Cabildo had a balcony and towers made of wood and mud.

By 1725, the building was in a very poor condition and was demolished. Italian architect Andrés Blanqui designed the new one, which was the base of what the building is today. In 1748 the first floor was ready, and in 1773 so did the tower -it was a bit higher than the present one. That was the Cabildo in 1810, when the Independence Revolution started. After independence, of course, its functions changed, and it worked as an administrative building for almost 60 years.

In 1894, three arches were demolished to give way to Avenida de Mayo, which would be the city’s central avenue at the time. In 1931, three more arches were also demolished for the layout of Julio A. Roca Avenue.

Since 1938 Buenos Aires Cabildo has hosted the National Commission of Museums and Monuments and Historical Places, and the National Historical Museum of Buenos Aires Cabildo the May Revolution.

It’s placed in 65, Bolívar st., Monserrat.

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2- Basílica Nuestra Señora del Pilar, Recoleta.

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This church (“Church of Our Lady of the Pillar”) is a basilica located in Recoleta. It was part of a convent of Franciscan Recollects. Its construction concluded in the year 1732, which makes it the second oldest temple of the city, and it was declared a National Historic Monument in 1942.

It’s placed right next to Recoleta Cemetery, in 1898, Junín st., Recoleta.

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3- Manzana de las Luces, Monserrat.

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The “Manzana de las Luces” (“Apple of Lights”) is one of Buenos Aires main historical complexes. It houses some of the oldest buildings in the city, such as the Church of San Ignacio -the oldest in Buenos Aires-, built bt the Jesuits.

This site was identified for the first time with that name in 1821, because of the cultural irradiation some of its institutions implied. In that sense, “Colegio de San Ignacio”, later called “Colegio de San Carlos” and now “Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires” was extremely important. It’s still one of the most prestigious high schools (it’s public and totally free!). Other important cultural buildings were Buenos Aires’ first theatre -called “Ranchería” at the time-, Buenos Aires’ first museum, Buenos Aires’ first print -Real Imprenta de Niños Expósitos- and the National Library.

Beneath this cultural apple are some tunnels, built in colonial times, that were used for defense and contraband. You can access these tunnels with a tour that also includes visits to these buildings.

The “Manzana de las Luces” is the one sorrounded by Bolívar, Perú, Alsina and Moreno streets, just a few blocks from Plaza de Mayo, in Monserrat. You can check it’s location here.

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4- Museo Isaac Fernández Blanco, Retiro.

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The Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernández Blanco, housed in Palacio Noel, is one of the most beautiful houses in the city and has one of the most important collections of Hispanic art in the world.

The heritage of the museum includes an important collection of art and decorative objects from South America. It covers from its colonial period until its independence: pieces of Peruvian, Altoperuand and Rioplatense silver; Alto Peruvian and Cuzco painting; Quito and Jesuit imagery and Luso-Brazilian furniture.

Even if you’re not deeply interested in art, the museum is worth a visit for the house and its patio themselves.

The museum is located in 1422, Suipacha st., Retiro.

If you want to visit any of these places during as part of your Spanish classes in Buenos Aires, and learn a bit more about them (in Spanish, of course!), get in touch.