Archives for category: Architects

Something that caught my eye while I was researching the history of BA housing is the large number of projects that were never built. Lots of factors prevented plans from becoming a reality… lack of funds, disagreement over execution, problems purchasing land, excessive construction costs, or even international conflicts. Take your pick. So when I come across plans of projects that could have been, it’s a bit like discovering a time capsule.

As previously mentioned, Fermín Bereterbide worked closely with the city government on several urbanization projects & won a lot of housing design contests. But that didn’t mean all his designs were built. Bereterbide’s connections, however, meant that at least his plans were published in city bulletins… waiting to be discovered decades later.

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Boletín del Honorable Concejo Deliberante 1939

“Massive” is the only way to describe the Barrio Jardín de Flores. It would have been located in the neighborhood of Villa Soldati in an area currently used as a public park (Lacarra & Avenida Roca). Fortunately there was a lot of light & air among the jumble of highrises.

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Buenos Aires, Villa Soldati, Barrio Jardín de Flores

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Buenos Aires, Villa Soldati, Barrio Jardín de Flores

Not quite as large, but equally as impressive, was this multi-building complex destined for Parque Patricios. I couldn’t find an exact location for where this was supposed to be built, but without doubt it would have faced the large Parque de los Patricios. Sleek & refined, a few lucky residents would have had pergolas just like in Barrio Parque Los Andes. The total number of units would have been a whopping 463 with 65% of the area as patio or garden space. Winning a 1925 contest, this is one project that should have been completed.

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Buenos Aires, Parque Patricios

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Buenos Aires, Parque Patricios

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Buenos Aires, Parque Patricios

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Buenos Aires, Parque Patricios

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Buenos Aires, Parque Patricios

While neither of these designs will ever be constructed, examining good intentions from the past helps build a more complete picture of how Buenos Aires became the city it is today.

Source: Boletín del Honorable Concejo Deliberante 1939, #6 & 7.

Fermín Bereterbide, architectOne architect stood out among all others during the era when social housing projects were being built in Buenos Aires. Due to political beliefs, he was ostracized from the academic community & died in obscurity in 1979. Only since his death has he been given the attention & recognition which he deserves…

Fermín Bereterbide graduated from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1918 & immediately began changing the urban landscape. In fact, he was one of the city’s first urban planners… someone who believed that the structure of the city itself determined the quality of life for its residents. Always innovative, one of the constants in Bereterbide’s career was the belief that housing projects for the underclass were very beneficial to the city. Take care of your poor & everyone benefits. Pretty simple.

Bereterbide won a number of city contests for housing projects & had many of them built in the 1920s, but it was his urbanistic views which generated controversy. Actively participating in architectural digests, city government planning organtizations & other local committees, Bereterbide took every opportunity to make his opinions public. For example, when he lost the contest for the development of Avenida Norte-Sur (today known as Avenida 9 de Julio with its large obelisk), Bereterbide continually protested the avenue’s current look. He wanted an underground vehicle tunnel built for speed while ground level was to become a core for government offices & parks. Even though I like the obelisk, his plan would have been more functional & definitely more beautiful than what is there today.

Buenos Aires, Avenida 9 de Julio, Fermín Bereterbide

Buenos Aires, Avenida 9 de Julio, Fermín Bereterbide, image from CeDIAP

With the 1934 booklet “What is Urbanism?”, Bereterbide drew examples from all over the world in order to convince local architects that urban planning on a broad socio-economic scale (even including Gran Buenos Aires) was necessary to improve everyone’s quality of life. His quote from a 1939 city government bulletin says it best:

What is lacking is not money, land or demand; what we’re missing (& this is where the problem lies) is a notion of humanity, trust in those concerned about this issue & the will to make things happen.

When an earthquake destroyed the city of San Juan in 1944, his plan to construct an entirely new city (instead of just rebuild what had collapsed) drew a lot of criticism. Not accepted, it was the beginning of his downfall. Very anti-Peronist in his politics, Bereterbide refused to acknowledge President Perón at an award ceremony given for a project he had won. Later, he spent time in jail for his political beliefs & was even kicked out of his professional organization, the Sociedad General de Arquitectos. One major housing project was built in 1955 with Bereterbide all but disappearing after that.

Leaving behind an important legacy, Bereterbide’s housing projects (those built & those never constructed) will be the topic of the next posts in this series.

Sources: Boletín del Honorable Concejo Deliberante, 1939 • ¿Qué es el Urbanismo? by Ernesto Vautier & Fermín Bereterbide • Diccionario de Arquitectura en la Argentina published by Clarín • Historias de la Ciudad, Año 3, #14.