Edited book
SEPRA and Clorindo Testa: Banco de Londres y América del Sud, Buenos Aires 1959-1966 (The O'Neil Ford Monograph)



Publication Details
Authors:
Cuadra, M.; Wang, W.
Edition name or number:
1
Publisher:
Wasmuth
Place:
Tübingen
Publication year:
2012

Abstract
With this fourth O’Neil Ford Monograph, The Center for American Architecture and Design together with the O’Neil Ford Chair in Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin are publishing another building of the "Modern" period that deserves wider attention. Certainly well-known amongst South American architectural connoiseurs, the Banco de Londres y América del Sud gives evidence that the efforts of a large design team, and not following the Western myth of the lone creative genius at the fountainhead, in a country that was ready for challenges of this magnitude, can result in an exceptional and exemplary piece of architecture. Argentina is a grand nation: proud on and off the soccer field, culturally memorable, economically potent, and politically challenged. Generations of European immigrants have set deep roots here. Spanish and Italians have been the decisive cultural groups, but also other Europeans such as the English have established their "colonies." To serve this community of traders and "ex-pats," a variety of umbilical cords were created to ensure a link to the old homeland. The Banco de Londres y América del Sud was one of these strands of the umbilical cord. Its precursor, founded in 1862 in London as the "London, Buenos Ayres, and River Plate Bank," undergoing changes in name and stakeholders (a share having been bought in 1918 by the then Lloyds Bank, the majority in the Banco de Londres y América del Sud was actually only acquired in 1971, now Lloyds Banking Group), occupied a modest Neo-Classical, single story building on the current site right at the center of Buenos Aires' financial district. The winning entry to the limited competition organized in 1959 for the new Argentinian headquarters brought forth a radically different solution beyond the Neo-Classical or Neo-Modernist norms. With Europe and the USA still reeling from the aftereffects of the Second World War, it was at the heart of the conservative financial district of Buenos Aires, that an integral entity of a visionary architecture was to be built, not by the constructivists in the USSR, not by the modernist immigrants in the USA and not those left in Europe. This Monograph thus presents to the interested reader an early case of a figured, structurally heroic, technologically advanced piece of architecture, the likes of which had not been seen in either Europe or the USA. Following extensive research on this building, it has been possible to gather drawings from the archives of the current owner of the Bank, the Banco Hipotecario, the successor offices of SEPRA and the office of Clorindo Testa. These are gathered here for the first time, thereby allowing an overview of the design process from the competition stage to the detailing of key building elements. The close up view of these documents supports the otherwise cursory assessment, that this building is one of the outstanding examples of modern architecture. In its stance, the creation of single volume that is occupied by suspended floors as well as rising floors slabs, that has every sinew of even its smallest element thoroughly honed, the Banco de Londres y América del Sud can be considered both as a singular phenomenon in which the aspirations and experience of a large number of designers and engineers could be realized as well as an exemplary case of a relatively independent language that set itself free from either the expected Neo-Classicism or the then new orthodoxy of rationalist Modernism. In this instance, the umbilical cord was to work in the other direction, feeding the homeland with inspiration. It was decades later that the figured components of the English High-Tech architects (Rogers, Foster et al) were to find their realization, including the ironic version by Stirling and Gowan. The Banco de Londres y América del Sud, like few other cases before it, had shown a direction for contemporary architecture to follow that would live the key principles of modern architecture – unity of purpose and form, constructional rationality and built veracity all in a liberated space/time continuum – while embodying the roots of the past and at the same time providing a vision of the future.


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Last updated on 2019-25-07 at 17:30