The facade of the De Ridder mansion on Alvear Avenue in Buenos Aires during its expansion, around 1927
Fuente: Archivo – Crédito: Archivo de Maud De Ridder de Zemborain
In Buenos Aires golden age, Alvear Avenue was Frenchified, an idea based on the aesthetics of large residences preserved along with its short six blocks that, with few exceptions, recreated in Beaux-Arts style of the Ancien Régime.
The culmination of its axis is the great dome of the old residence Ortiz Basualdo, the current French Embassy, to which the Plaza Carlos Pellegrini with its monument by Jules-Félix Coutan serve as a setting, that can be considered as the apotheosis of a paradigm that defined Buenos Aires as ‘the Paris of South America’.
However, this assertion is not entirely accurate, the architectural eclecticism that prevailed in the avenue at the beginning of the 20th century reveals a deep Americanism resulting from the different cultural tastes of the ruling elites, as well as from the diverse migratory currents that reached Argentina.
Avenida Alvear’s Origins
In an attempt to decipher the progressive opening of Avenida Alvear, it can be said that by 1865, 90% of the street was built on, stretching from Avenida del Libertador – then known as Camino de Palermo – to Presidente Avenue Quintana – in those days the Long Street of the Recoleta.
In the plan of the City and Municipality, made by Pedro P. Uzal in 1879, its layout appears for the first time under the name of Progreso and reached Rodriguez Peña Street, then called Guarantees. In another plan delineated by J. B. A. Bianchi in 1882, it is seen with its current layout and named Bella Vista. But in the Municipal Plan of the same year already appears under the name of Alvear Avenue that is estimated was formalized by ordinance of January 31, 1883.
The House of Obligado Pastor
At the intersection with Parera street, number 1531, there was a picturesque residence that emulated a small castle, inaugurated in 1886, inscribed on the vane that crowned its tallest tower. Its design and construction was entrusted to the Italian Lombard architect Pablo Besana by Pastor Servando Obligado (1841-1924), lawyer, a military and famous writer, author -among other works- of Tradiciones Argentinas, married to María Teresa Ortega.
To this biographical, it is relevant to add that his father, Pastor Justo Obligado Tejedor, was the first constitutional governor of the Province of Buenos Aires between 1853 and 1858.
Pablo Besana was born in Missaglia, Italy and trained at the prestigious Accademia di Brera in Milan, where he participated in the construction of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. He came to Argentina in 1878 in the company of his brother Soave, of which he would be a partner; building several works, in 1897 they would win the tender for the construction of the Palace of the National Congress.
The Obligado residence was flanked by two other buildings designed and built by the same architect: on his left was the Kier house, built in the early 1980’s, owned by Dr. Sabiniano Kier, President of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Province of Buenos Aires. On this land, between 1911 and 1913, the new residence of Juan José Blaquier and Mercedes de Elizalde would be built. On the right were the four houses of Valeria Cueto de Cárdenas, aunt carnal of Felicitas Guerrero de Álzaga, as well as her neighbors probably built in the 1880’s.
The project of Besana for the Obligado housing was the result of the fusion between historicism and romanticism prevailing in the second half of the nineteenth century; its façades recreated the facades of a singular palazzi, as it was called in the book Gli Italiani Nella Repubblica Argentina of 1898, with neo-Gothic winged and crenelated towers inspired by the palaces of the Veneto, an eccentricity in a city in which fifty years ago the prominent architecture was the more conservative inherited from the colony.
It was a building of exempt volume, removed from the municipal line, which is estimated around 1903 when an entrance porch and an Orangerie or winter garden was added.
The De Ridder family, the new owners
Obligado lived on Avenida Alvear until his death in 1924, when the house was acquired by businessman Luis De Ridder (1881-1945). His daughter Maud De Ridder of Zemborain married Carlos Alfredo Zemborain Dose, a neighbor of the same avenue and great-grandson of Pastor Servando Obligado. He possesses a prodigious memory and gently evokes several anecdotes of his times in the residence, where he lived for more than forty years, to which are added the memories of his brother Francisco and his nephew Santiago De Ridder.
Luis came from Antwerp, where he had a solid professional training and arrived in Argentina in 1907 with the purpose of founding the branch of a cereal company for which he worked.
In 1917 he married Yvonne Perrier, Argentine, a descendant of Swiss and French parentage. The first of the nine children of the couple was born in the house on Charcas Street, and then they moved to a property located on 1950 O’Higgins Street in Belgrano, where three more children were born, including Maud.
Finally, in 1924, his parents acquired the house of Pastor Obligado on Avenida Alvear, which was modified between 1926 and 1927 when it was commissioned to a redesign of the garden to the engineer Benito Carrasco, author of the Rosedal de Palermo. Six years later a second renovation was made that incorporated new premises on the earlier sector, necessary to accommodate four other children who were born there, and a girl who was born in Mar del Plata.
The great enlargement
Between 1937 and 1939, after acquiring and demolishing the adjacent property belonging to the Cárdenas family, buying the land adjacent to Posadas Street, the house underwent an expansion that doubled its size.
At first, the couple had called the Parisian architect Robert Tiphaine, who advised demolishing the castle and making a new house in the French style.
But Yvonne, attached to the old property, was sorry to destroy it and it was then that they turned to the Argentine architect César Adot Andía (1912 – 2000), graduated in 1935 from the Faculty of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences of the University of Buenos, who saved the existing work and adapted its style to the new construction.
On Alvear Avenue, a new building was built attached to the original and the artistic fence was modified. In Posadas street, a garage and machine room with central air conditioning equipment (a novelty for those years), the rooms for the twentyeight service employees and above a tennis court were built.
Finally, in the back garden, the old garage was demolished, a children’s playground and a large aviary were installed, which was first occupied by Australian parrots and then pheasants.
Maud describes the interiors with precision: the house in the oldest sector of the main floor had a small French room surviving from the time of Obligado, the dining room nicknamed the sad room due to its darkness and the fumoir located at the base of the tower, decorated with a Delft ceramic fireplace and marble.
With the extension of the late 1930s, an illuminated hall with an important Murano glass chandelier, a room for the storage of trunks, a dining room, a toy room, a gym on the second floor and a large kitchen was added. On the ground floor where a Danish chef worked, appropriate to serve the eleven members of the family.
His uncle, Gerard De Ridder, was an architect and was in charge of the new decoration of the dining room and the fireplace in the flamenco style with pieces brought from Belgium, inspired by the house of the painter Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp, today Rubenshuis Museum, “so that my father felt in his homeland. ”
In 1955 his brother Francisco married Myriam Urrutia and they settled in the house on Avenida Alvear, where they lived in a new apartment built on the ground floor, a work that was commissioned between 1956 and 1957 to the architect and friend of the family, Amancio Williams , that a few years before had directed the construction of the Curutchet House designed by Le Corbusier in La Plata and the house on the Arroyo in Mar del Plata. The modern furniture of this space was designed by architect Gerardo Clusellas in steel and leather.
Life in the home
Maud remembers that during her childhood she was cared for by an Italian nanny, at age 10 she had a French governess and some of her brothers a Swiss Fräulein. As an adult, she attended classes at the Sacred Heart on Avenida Callao y Juncal, where the “Los Galgos” tower stands today. Children’s games happened in the garden, in the toy room or improvised in the halls of the house. With humor, she recalls the occasion when a brother accidentally locked her in one of the trunks in the ground floor room and her mother had to call a locksmith to free her.
“Dances, parties and weddings were held in the salons, some of them memorable, such as the costume ball of 1951, in which two guests arrived mounted on an elephant and a camel”
To escape from the oppressive Buenos Aires heat they used to retire to a farm in Olivos called “La Cigale” located on Maipú Avenue 3125. Around 1934, Luis acquired Villa General Zapiola, the Norman chalet of Daniel Ortiz Basualdo and Mercedes Zapiola located in Alvear and Bolivar in Mar del Plata, which they renamed Villa Monica in dedication to one of their daughters.
They also had a home in Bariloche, Villa Astrid -named after another of their daughters-work for the architect Alberto Rodríguez Etcheto, author of numerous picturesque works of quality in the 30s and 40s. In this city, the sons of Luis and Yvonne, eximious sportsmen, used to practice alpine skiing. In fact the brothers, Marcelo and Luis came to compete in the Olympic Games of Saint Moritz in 1948, in the disciplines of the sleigh and alpine ski respectively, and in 1952, Francisco and Luis participated in the Olympic Games in Oslo also in the alpine skiing discipline.
In turn, Marcelo De Ridder, architect, founded in 1949, at only 26 years old, the Institute of Modern Art, the forerunner of the National Museum of Modern Art.
The De Ridder family lived on the property until the early 1960s when it passed into the hands of a bank. It was demolished at the beginning of 1967 together with the beautiful house that belonged to the Blaquier family. The land was subdivided into two plots, one with a front on Alvear on which were built in the 1980s two buildings by the architect Mario Roberto Álvarez, and another on Posadas, on which the Hotel Caesar Park, now Sofitel, was built in 1992, work of the Peralta Ramos – SEPRA study.
Today only two examples of this property style still exist of what was one of the most picturesque houses on Alvear Avenue. Some fragments of its ornamentation, such as the weather vane with the inscription P.O 1886 that crowned the tower, were preserved by the family, some pieces of stained glass donated to the Museo Fernández Blanco, and other remains acquired by private individuals. The rest was consigned to history.
* Adolfo Brodaric is a researcher and Pablo Chiesa has a degree in museology and both are developing in the field of preservation of cultural heritage.
Source: La Nacion