Despite being one of Latin America’s megalopoli, Buenos Aires has a great deal of green space. In these photos from his 2004 trip to Argentina, the Monkey visits some of the capital’s best-known parks.
Another Parisian concept that took hold in Buenos Aires, as elsewhere, was the move to lay out large parks amidst the city streets. Here, the Monkey takes a break in Plaza San Martín, named for the Argentine independence hero, General José de San Martín, and designed by the Frenchman Charles Thays. This is one of the only places in Buenos Aires with a hint of a hill (look closely here and you might spot it, or look at the photo of the Kavanagh Building below for more evidence!). It’s also a beautifully relaxed urban setting, combining this sun-kissed slope with the shade of enormous rubber trees. Porteños love to relax in this oasis so near the bustle of the microcentro.
In the distance, you can see one of the classic juxtapositions of Argentine culture. The brick tower is the Torre de los Ingleses, with its clockfaces for passengers en route to the nearby (British-built) railroad stations of the Retiro area. And before the flying flag is the memorial to the fallen of the Falklands/Malvinas War of 1982. The marble monument lists the names of the Argentine (mostly) draftees who died retaking the British-controlled islands during the waning moments of Argentina’s most recent military dictatorship. The clash? The Argentine color guard at the monument use the British clocks to determine when to effect the change of the guard.
Relaxing on the lawn of Plaza San Martín, the Monkey takes in the art deco eccentrics of the Edificio Kavanagh. Built in 1935, the Kavanagh Building was, for a time, the tallest building in South America. Its modern, tapered design was revolutionary in a city still erecting countless Beaux-Arts buildings, and the Kavanagh quickly became a posh address to have. It retains a certain flair today, with its terraced gardens and commanding views over Retiro and the plaza.
No, it’s not a spacecraft from Mars. It’s the Argentine National Library. This bizarre structure is built on the site of the home where Juan and Eva Perón lived during his presidency. After a coup overthrew Perón in 1955, the residence was demolished out of fears it would become a rallying point for the then-outlawed Peronists. A plan was hatched to build a library on the location, but it took nearly four decades to complete the project. Designed by a trio of leading Argentine architects, the Biblioteca Nacional (1992) sits atop a slight hill amid a pleasant park in swanky Barrio Norte. The Monkey was keen to browse the library’s stacks, but opted to head to a café for a submarino (semi-bitter chocolate melted in milk) instead.
El Mono perches on a statue in Plaza del Congreso, the Argentine equivalent of Washington’s Mall. It rests at one end of Avenida de Mayo, the ceremonial avenue (beyond the flagpole) connecting Congress and the Casa Rosada (the Presidential Palace and offices). Populated more by pigeons than people, Plaza Congreso is nonetheless a cherished open space in the heart of the city. The site of frequent demonstrations, Plaza Congreso is arguably the peoples’ most direct meeting point with their government.
Kyoto meets Buenos Aires in Palermo’s peaceful Japanese Garden. The Jardín Japones was created by Buenos Aires’ small Japanese community in the late 1970s, and it faithfully recreates many of the elements of a traditional Japanese garden. Here, the Monkey has a zenful pause by a pond traversed by a barrel bridge, with a stone lantern further afield.
The Monkey watches carp from a zig-zagging wooden bridge over the pond at Buenos Aires’ Japanese garden. Behind him is a Japanese cultural center, where you can drink green tea to heighten the garden experience.
The Monkey and his pal Schlapp enjoy the quiet confines of Buenos Aires’ Botanical Garden. The small park was mostly created by Charles Thays, the same French landscaper who designed Plaza San Martín (at the top of the page). The Jardín Botánico now bears Thays’ name, as he did much to transform Buenos Aires’ green spaces. The shady park is perfect for lazing about, and animal-friendly visitors here are certain to come across a cat or ten looking for some attention.
Parque Lezama is an urban park extraordinaire. Located between San Telmo and La Boca, the multi-purpose park is a favorite for everyone from drum-playing hippies to dog-walking grannies. On summer weekends, when San Telmo’s street fair swells, Parque Lezama fills with people hawking t-shirts and knick-knacks and couples checking out other couples. Many consider the park to be the site of the original 1536 founding of Buenos Aires by Pedro de Mendoza, and the National History Museum, within the park, seems to be here for that reason. In this shot, the Monkey is busy scouting the young footballers of Parque Lezama for the next Gabriel Batistuta or Diego Maradona.
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