Details

Keywords Change this

Brutalism, Forgotten Masterpieces, Concrete

Project timeline

1959 – 1966

Type

Office

Location Change this

Suipacha 441
Buenos Aires
Argentina

Also known as Change this

Banco de Londres y América del Sur, National Mortgage Bank,

Architect Change this

Team

Clorindo Testa, Elia Sanchez, Peralta Ramos and Agostini

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Article last edited by Maria Thuroczy on
April 18th, 2013

London Bank in Buenos Aires Change this

Buenos Aires, Argentina
by Clorindo Testa Change this
1 of 27

Description Change this

In 1959 a contest was held for a project at the invitation of the Headquarters of the Bank of London and South America. The land was located on a street corner in downtown Buenos Aires, where the financial activity was booming. The winning design was submitted by the team Clorindo Testa, associated with S. E. P. R. A society, composed of architects: Elia Sanchez, Peralta Ramos and Agostini. This project, for its urban architectural approach, is one of the most original, bold and far-reaching of the international architecture of the 60s.

On a corner of downtown Buenos Aires emerges a huge rectangular structure of reinforced concrete. It is strange and unusual in contrast to the traditional bank buildings that surround it.

Concept

There are several innovative mechanisms at work in this design. First, the approach of integrating the building to the cityscape as a space of continuity rather than being closed, marked a break with the traditional positions of architecture.

The bank is located between two very narrow streets: Reconquista and Bartolomé Miter, each about 10 meters wide. The project was thought to be taking advantage of this angle bounded by neighboring buildings. The main idea was that the city penetrated within the bank; there was no division between internal and external space, thus extending the narrowness of the streets. According to the designers, the Bank of London was intended to not function as a conventional building, but rather as a covered plaza.

The Brutality in Argentina

The so-called "brutality" was an architectural trend of European origin that had an important development in Argentina during the fifties. It was marked by a critical reading of the conventions and cliches, emphasizing the search for a poetic dimension to the architecture through the use of light, wide open spaces and a particular application of the materials.

The building was intended to show traces of brutality as a new ornamental concept, showing the constructive language of reinforced concrete, brick, glass and iron. The central column of the work had a fundamental, expressive role and was stripped of any formal representation. This effect was achieved by releasing the floors, hanging or mezzanine, emphasizing the edge beams to create horizontal lines to dominate large austere areas. It also gave the columns a sculptural treatment, porches and staircases, making up two and three stories.

In Argentina, "the brutality" recognizes three different sources. First, the legacy of the Franco-Swiss architect Le Corbusier, as evidenced in works such as the Swiss Pavilion of the City University of Paris (1930) and the Housing Unit of Marseille, La Cité Radieuse (1947). The new English "brutality" was conceived around the ideas of Alison and Peter Smithson, the critic Reyner Banham, the photographer Nigel Henderson and visual artist Eduardo Paolozzi. His works were the Ecole, emblematic of Hunstanton (1949-1954) and The Economist Building in London (1967), a building that combines offices, homes and a bank. Finally, and to a lesser degree, another record of brutality in Argentina is the American formalism, with works by Eero Saarinen.

The "brutality" had great influence within the institutional spaces. The use of perspective brutality in government buildings was stated as a legitimate design option, which later was adopted in buildings destined to become colleges, universities, hospitals and bank headquarters.

Spaces

The building of the Bank of London has three floors below grade and 6 above. The main entrance on the corner, which makes up the space of transition is emphasized by another display of suspended concrete, which limits the visual space. Inside the bank, there are six levels.

The central hall, a key element of the traditional banking institutions. These levels are suspended from the ceiling by major steel tie rods, which gives the liberty for the working spaces.

Structure

The entire structure operates in a single volume. This scheme is understood and defined by three key elements: the block of the roof and two median walls. The volume is completed through the system used in its two facades, a column perimeter. The roof is supported in part by the colonnade, which also fulfills the role of a so-called protective screen against the interior reflections of the sun.

Materials

The special treatment of reinforced concrete, modeled as a sculpture, with its shuttering treated in curves, jagged and drilled along geometric patterns, reinforces the innovative nature of the work. The sculptural and functional use of reinforced concrete as a hallmark of Clorindo Testa.

Comments

Posted by Lacuna | 20.02.2012 | 12:01pm
Lovin its brutality
Posted by archibald | 20.02.2012 | 11:17am
Great stuff! Thank you for adding this!

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