2016-04-11

Buenos Aires' Stories: Architectural Warfare

Written by Lucy Courtnall
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Buenos Aires Architecture Buenos Aires Architecture

Buenos Aires is often described as a ´melting pot` of different styles, cultures and influences, and this is most obvious in the city`s mish mash of architectural wonders.

Perhaps the most interesting example of such extreme contrast lies in the sight of the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento hidden along a small side street, nestled between towering skyscrapers. Tourists often question why you would chose to hide such a beautiful, historic building behind monstrous tower blocks, and real story behind this architectural antithesis is truly fascinating.

Mercedes Castellanos de Anchorena had ordered the construction of the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento at the start of the 20th century. Her family lived in the Palacio San Martin, a huge and extravagant building which is used today as home to the Foreign Service Department. Mercedes said that seeing as she had her own palace to live in, then her God should also have his own palace, and thus the church was built across the Plaza San Martin. It was specifically placed so she had the perfect view of it from her family`s residence, and was planned to be the family mausoleum in years to come.

Corina Kavanagh was a wealthy and aspiring woman. She had plans for her daughter to marry the son of the aristocratic Anchorenas family. However, Mercedes rejected this proposal. Kavanagh took revenge by building an enourmous block of flats right in front of the Basilica del Santisimo Sacramento, blocking it from view and placing an obtrusive obstacle between the family mausoleum and their home. Only Mercedes´ body now rests in the crypt beneath the church, the rest of her family lie in the Recoleta Cemetery.

Today the Kavanagh building stands tall above the barrio of Retiro. Designed to mimic the skyscrapers of New York, it has 105 apartments, with the largest occupying nearly 700 square metres. The building provides us with an example of architectural warfare and an act of everlasting revenge.

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