Keywords Change this

Foma, Concrete

Project timeline

1971 – 1992



Location Change this

Buenos Aires

Also known as Change this

Biblioteca Nacional Buenos Aires

Architect Change this

Argentinian National Library Change this

Buenos Aires, Argentina
by Clorindo Testa, Francisco Bullrich Change this
1 of 18

Description Change this

To select an architect for a new site of three hectares for the Argentinian National Library, a national competition was organised in 1962. Among dozens of proposals, the architects Clorindo Testa, Francisco Bullrich and Alicia Cazzaniga de Bullrich were selected to build the new library. The avantgard design based on the "Brutalist" ideas of the time privileging raw concrete structures was characterized by maximising the open space on the ground floor with a park to be created around the library while the reading room was placed in the upper floor with views towards the park and the city. Much later the idea to turn the functional concept upside down was reintroduced by OMA's Seattle Public Library.

Similar to OMA (although they chose a different solution to the problem), it was Testa's intention to conceive the whole library as a public space. This is why he decided to hide the archives underground. After releasing the building structure of the weight of the book archives, he decided to raise it on stilts to allow free views and thus creating a permanently open access platform. The result was a building that Testa characterized as a quadruped and which looked "alive".

Despite the promising designs, it took almost ten years until the foundation stone of the building was placed on October 13, 1971. But the difficulties didn't stop there. Subsequently the works were delayed and finally - during the dictatorship - suspended. When construction restarted in 1982, it was for budgetary reasons decided to remove the front metal sunshades which protected the reading areas from outside light, a fact that led to the future unfinished appearance of the building, and can now make reading difficult at certain times of day.

The new National Library was finally inaugurated on April 10, 1992, by President Carlos Menem, and the transfer of all bibliographical material was completed on September 21, 1993.

The building has three underground tanks, two of them with a capacity for three million books, and one to store magazines and newspapers, with a capacity of five hundred thousand copies. In addition, the building currently operates the National Library School, founded in 1956.


Posted by Lacuna | Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 | 20:17pm
It's always good to keep in mind this political view of architecture. Same situation in Hungary. A lot of building become victims of government changings. One, and maybe the most famous is for instance the case of the National Theater in Budapest, which was started to build by the left wing in 1998, and then stopped when the right wing won the elections in the same year. The underground construction on the original site was redesigned and now its a popular meeting point, bar, and place for exhibitions and concerts in the city center. Finally the building of the National Theater is controversial.
Posted by Guest | Thursday, February 23rd, 2012 | 16:27pm
Very well informed, when a building is comissioned by the argentine government two things can happen: that it´s completed thuroughly or that it´s delayed. Usually these reasons aren´t truly due to budget but to ideals, and Testa´s Library is very left wing in design (reminiscing Russian Architecture). Yet even Mario Roberto Alvarez had to undergo the same problems with his also mythical and modern style Teatro General San Martín, as did Bustillo´s Art Nouveau Monument to the Flag in Rosario. That´s how things are done in ambiguous countries like argentina, where a change in government means a complete disrespect for everything the former administration laid down (that buildings should suffer these consequences only lets us imagine what it must be like for other, more fundamental causes). Shame shame indeed.

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