Soon after I start reading about Palacio Barolo, I wonder how I could have missed this on all my previous visits to Buenos Aires. I take a subway to nearby Sáenz Peña, and when I exit, I immediately see the building I am looking for. Towering high above Avenida de Mayo, Palacio Barolo was the highest building of Argentina (and indeed, of South America) for a decade in the 1920s and early 1930s. Its exterior clearly stands out, with protruding windows, and of course the tower that tops it. I venture inside, and am overwhelmed by a high ceiling, with sculpted ornaments hanging down from lanterns. I walk to the central area, where I find classical elevators and stairs. I book a guided tour, and when I come back a few hours later for it, I am excited. The guide turns out to be very knowledgeable, and I feel that I am in for a lovely hour and a half.
She explains that the building was designed by Italian architect Mario Palanti, who was an admirer of the Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri. He based the building on the famous book: it is 100 metres high, one metre for every chapter in the Divina Commedia. It has 22 floors, which corresponds to the 22 stanze of Dante's book. But there is more: the basement and ground floor represent hell, floors 1-14 are purgatory, and the top seven floors are paradise. When we hear that, we gladly follow her on our way up, but not after admiring the decorated elevators. They are Swiss, 100 years old and still functioning perfectly. We get off after a few floors, and look down to the central hall. We make a few more stops on our way up, and see some of the offices. Palacio Barolo, funded by a textile industrialist of the same name, houses offices and studios for lawyers, accountants, travel agencies, a language school and more. Just imagine this would be your workplace!
We need to walk the last floors, which we enjoy because it means we walk straight into heaven and paradise. One of the top floors has balconies on all sides, which offer fantastic views over Buenos Aires. We climb up to the very top: the lighthouse. There is just enough space for us to sit around the huge lamp in the middle. From here, we have 360 degree views over the capital of Argentina. Our guide now tells us that the same Palanti constructed a similar building in Montevideo, also equipped with a lighthouse. They would both serve as a welcome sign for immigrants arriving in the Rio de la Plata area, like the Pillars of Hercules. The lighthouse is only used on special occasions nowadays, like in 2010 when Argentina was celebrating 200 years of the May revolution. One more detail: the Southern Cross aligns with the lighthouse exactly on July 9, Argentina's Independence Day. Finally, we walk down a few floors, and get out at a terrace from where we look up the tup of the building, and can just see the tip of the lighthouse. Palanti had these floors coloured in red, white and green: the colours of his native Italy. Even before leaving the building, I look forward to a next visit, because I am sure I will see many more details in this extremely well thought, and executed, building.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Palacio Barolo (Argentina). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Palacio Barolo. Read more about this site.