1 city, 2 days, 70 buildings: Open House Buenos Aires is a celebration of Argentine architecture. It’s an invitation to rediscover Buenos Aires, its people and its history, by granting access to places which are usually off limits to the public.
Open House began in London in 1992 and now takes place in over 20 cities around the world. Buenos Aires is the only city in South America that houses this event; five friends got together and decided to show the world what their city has to offer. Plan South America met up with 1/5th of Open House Buenos Aires, Santiago ChibÃ¡n, to discover a new side to the city.
By Carolina Beresford
Photo credits: Pablo Coral and Santiago Chibín.
Why do you think Buenos Aires makes a good Open House city?
Buenos Aires has a complete mixture of architectural styles: Spanish, Italian, French, modern and contemporary… It’s very eclectic and reflects our European heritage. Open House is interested in opening spaces that are intriguing; Buenos Aires has a lot of spaces which generate curiosity – one of the buildings in the event is the narrowest house in the city, it’s only two meters wide! We hope that by opening these places we can learn more about our city and it’s people.
What makes a building interesting to you?
I particularly like it when a building’s design reflects its function. Barrio Parque Los Andes, by architect Fermín Bereterbide, is unique in its formation; the apartments surround the perimeter of two city blocks, leaving an internal park. It’s a space that allows many activities to take place – there’s a football pitch and a place to cook barbecues… It’s thought out so its inhabitants can have a better quality of life.
Architecture which encourages interaction between neighbours – that’s fantastic
Exactly. There’s something very special about that communal space. Argentines love to chat. I lived in Boston for several months and the building where I was staying also had a communal space, but there was very little interaction between neighbours.
Is there a particular building in Buenos Aires that you would like to be part of Open House, which isn’t already?
There’s a little house known as the ‘chalet of 9 de Julio’ [above center image]; it belonged to a man who lived outside Buenos Aires and commuted to the city for work, but travelled back at midday for his siesta. To avoid the daily commute, he built a replica of his country house on top of a building on 9 de Julio, the busiest street in the city. It’s curious to see a country house on top of a tall city building. We’re hoping that it’ll be part of Open House next year; we’re dying to get a look at it!
What do you want to achieve with Open House?
We want the people of Buenos Aires to get to know their architecture and begin to value what we have here. Some of us walk past wonderful buildings every day without knowing what’s inside. As well as promoting the city’s heritage we want the public to begin to form a connection with contemporary architecture and encourage people to take pride in their city.
Do you think this project can have an affect on future architecture of Buenos Aires, and people’s perception of their city?
A building is constructed because someone commissions it; if they don’t have a notion of good architecture then the finished product will not be of value or be aesthetically pleasing. If we all begin to understand the importance of architecture every building commissioned will have something significant to offer and the city will grow in beauty. It’s an idealistic thought, but we hope our project will make a difference in some way. Open House Buenos Aires is formed of five friends; we all love Buenos Aires and have always wanted to do something for the city – this is our little grain of sand.