Notes on the Geography of Argentina: Puerto Madero
Passengers arriving in Buenos Aires in 1890 tied up at a long pier sticking out into the Rio de la Plata. It was hopelessly inadequate, and so a battle ensued between a local, highly qualified engineer named Luis Huergo and a local businessman, Eduardo Madero, with British connections. Each man had a plan, with Madero relying on an eminent British engineer, Sir John Hawkshaw. As the name Puerto Madero suggests, Huergo lost the battle. Still, he lived long enough to win the war.
Madero's plan--really Hawkshaw's--was modelled on the port of Liverpool, where Hawkshaw as a young man had worked with Jesse Hartley. Anyone who has seen Hartley's work at Liverpool will recognize Hawkshaw's debt. In essence, Buenos Aires got a harbor consisting of four rectangular pools, each measuring about 500 feet by 2,000 and lined with warehouses.
Here's the line-up of some of those warehouses on the landward side.
And here's the gate connecting one of the pools to the next. All four are in a single straight line. All are rimmed in cyclopean stone, and all, of course, were almost instantly obsolete in an age where ships continued to grow.
Puerto Madero opened in 1900 and had to be replaced by World War I. The replacement, the Puerto Nuevo, consisted of four diagonal docks cut into the shore just north of Puerto Madero: their profile is basically what Huergo had proposed 20 years earlier. Puerto Madero fell into a long slump. What to do? The answer, ironically, was to redevelop the port along the same festive-retail lines adopted in postwar Liverpool.
Restaurants, museums, shops: the usual suspects. To manage it al, the government in 1989 created the Old Puerto Madero Corporation, with authority over 170 hectares. Some of that land had none of the visual appeal of the waterfront, so office space was included, too, including the project's office, completed in 2010 and seen here in the distance. Space in the building as also rented to ICBC (the Chinese bank), Chevron, and DowDuPont.
You get the vibe; it's pretty standard stuff. The cranes, which can't have been original equipment, have been retained to give a little pizzazz at least for people interested in that sort of thing.
At the far north of the set of docks, you can see the modern container port that's evolved at the Nuevo Port. You can also see (but it's hard to get to from here) the city's yacht club, designed by the same Eduardo la Monnier who did the dome-topped office building on the downtown diagonal. Yes, the tower is a lighthouse. The club dates from 1882; this building from 1911.
Close as I can get.
The opposite side of the four pools has the flashiest part of Buenos Aires: all new, all slick.
Here's the zoomed view from the statue of Juan de Garay. One of the docks is between us and the buildings. Beyond the buildings is a large artificial island now an ecological reserve but composed of rubble brought in and dumped largely from the buildings destroyed during the construction of the Avenida 9 de Julio.
An architectural historian puts her cards on the table: "In Puerto Madero, the official language--if the term is allowed--is expressed in a tendency toward the neutral..." Claudia Shmidt in Jorge F. Kiernur, ed., Puerto Madero Waterfront, 2007, p. 91.
Welcome to the twin Torres del Yacht. We keep a barbecue on the balcony.
A realtor offers alternatives in Miami.
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