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Classical French Architecture in Buenos Aires

Estrugamou ApartmentsFrom 1880, admirers of France as a model republic for cultural and aesthetic tastes, known as the ‘Generation of ‘80’, began to expand globally. The classical French style began to heavily influence even Non-French European Architects. At the beginning of the 19th century, after the wars of independence, European tendencies and influences penetrated into Argentina.

As the new republic set about constructing a nation, the Argentine government aimed to move away from its colonial roots. At the time Argentina prospered as the seventh richest country in the world and it’s centre, Buenos Aires, became a hub for cultural creativity, innovation and wealth.

In order to demonstrate their new individuality and success as a new republic, consolidated with this era of economic expansion, private residences and historically important buildings were commissioned. Buenos Aires became a centre of Beaux-Arts architecture, which continued to be built as late as 1950. This period marked Argentina’s “belle époque” and its legacy to become known as the ‘Paris of South America’ with its wide boulevards and French-style architecture.

The residential Estrugamou Building, or Edificio Estrugamou, resembles an aristocratic French mansion in the high-end neighbourhood of Retiro. A few blocks from the upscale ‘Avenida Alvear’ famous for it’s classical French architectural presence and placed among the world’s five most distinguished avenues, the Estrugamou building sits in the aristocratic ‘elbow’ (as called for by the writer Eduardo Mallea) in the intersection of Juncal and Esmeralda.

One of the later built French baroque-style structures, only finished in 1929; the building demonstrates just how enduring the elegant French influence has been.

The building’s history doesn’t just stop at the design and aesthetics; some of its most distinguished residents have included Domingo Cavallo (the Argentine economist and politician), Jorge Lanata (journalist and writer) and Carlos Gardel (one of the most prominent figures in the history of Tango).

The eight-storey structure made up of white stone was commissioned by Alejandro Estrugamou, the son of French Basque immigrants and prominent Argentine landowners, in 1924. The eclectic style, delicate balconies and mansard roof were heavily influenced by French Baroque and Second Empire architecture and designed by the buildings architects Eduardo Sauze and August Huguier.

Originally along its southern façade, it was graced by an over sized sidewalk and extensive garden, which the civic-minded Alejandro Estrugamou donated to the city shortly before his death in 1937.

The design does not just mimic French styles, the Estrugamou’s many materials and decorative elements were actually imported from France and the flooring is finished in Slovenian Oak. It was arranged around a patio embellished with a bronze copy of the iconic Winged Victory of Samothrace that conveys a sense of action and triumph.

 

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