The Estrugamou in Buenos Aires – The Pinnacle of French Classical Architecture
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On the corner of Juncal and Esmeralda streets, in the Retiro neighborhood of Buenos Aires, sits a stately and imposing relic of an era of French architecture in Buenos Aires, a city often dubbed the “Paris of South America.” The residential Estrugamou Building, or Edificio Estrugamou, resembles an aristocratic French mansion, with its chimneys, mansard roof, cornices and three-story classical columns.
The first wave of French architects came to Argentina in the 1820s, shortly after independence from Spain was declared in 1816. Buenos Aires experienced a building boom from 1880 through the 1920s, when it was one of the world’s richest, fastest growing cities. Italian, Spanish and French architecture reflect the city’s influx of diverse immigrant groups during this time.
The Estrugamou was commissioned in 1924 by Alejandro Estrugamou, an Argentine landowner and descendant from a French Basque family. Designed by architects Eduardo Sauze and August Huguier, the eclectic building’s style was heavily influenced by French Baroque and Second Empire architecture. The eight-story building was built in four sections, with four equivalent apartments measuring 500-600 m2 on each floor. Each apartment came with a drawing room, dining room, living room, ﬁve family bedrooms and three bedrooms for servants. Nearly every decorative element of the building was imported from France, and the flooring was finished in Slovenian oak. It was inaugurated in 1929, just before the world financial crisis.
The building’s apartments are arranged around a courtyard, which contains a bronze copy of the iconic Winged Victory of Samothrace statue, an angel without arms or a head, standing inside a small boat. The original statue, a prominent part of the collection at the Louvre Museum in Paris, is a 2nd century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike. From the exterior, the statue can be seen through an iron door on the building’s southern facade, above which “Edificio Estrugamou” is carved into the concrete in large letters. The architects’ names, “Suaze and Huguier”, are also visible beside the door.
The Estrugamou originally featured an oversized sidewalk and extensive garden along its southern side, though Estrugamou donated this section to the city (which sought to widen Juncal Street) shortly before his death in 1937.
The building has been home to various notable people, including tango singer Carlos Gardel and journalist Jorge Lanata. Its style is similar to other buildings in the neighborhood, such as the San Martín Palace and the Palacio Paz, located in and around the beautiful and verdant Plaza de San Martín, two blocks away.
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