Buenos Aires, Argentina, has its fair share of weird and wonderful architecture. In a city where chaos is the norm and eccentricity is celebrated, it follows that the built environment would reflect the idiosyncrasies of the Argentine capital. Check out some of the weirdest buildings in Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires’ planetarium could perhaps take the crown for being the weirdest-looking building in the city. Situated in the city’s central Tres de Febrero park in Palermo, the Planetario looks as if it has just landed on Earth, a fitting concept for a building that celebrates all things celestial. This other-worldly edifice, inaugurated in 1968, was the brainchild of the Ministry of Culture and a socialist councillor, and was designed by Argentine architect Enrique Jan with the purpose of promoting astronomy and science. The design is derived from geometry and mathematics, particularly the configuration of an equilateral triangle; the building’s iconic spherical silhouette is best seen at night, when its dome is illuminated by LED lamps. Guided tours are available.
Argentina is known for constantly looking abroad for what’s cool, and nowhere is this more evident than in the recently opened Uptown Bar in the Palermo Hollywood area. This weird bar may be all the rage right now, but its concept is the epitome of kitsch. This cocktail bar is modeled on a New York subway station, and the entrance comes complete with a faux-graffitied stairwell, white tiled walls typical of the underground in the Big Apple, and way-finding signage straight out of the New York City subway, all of which is more than disconcerting when you then enter a plush interior that is more reminiscent of a high-class 1930s speakeasy than a grotty subway station.
An hour outside the city of Buenos Aires you will find the fantastical folly of Campanopolis. A self-contained medieval village built by millionaire Alberto Campana in the 1970s, Campanopolis is part JRR Tolkien’s Shire, part Game of Thrones, part the ridiculous last hurrah of the terminally ill Campana, who was dying of cancer. Campanopolis is a collection of buildings connected by little bridges, with plush landscaping and interwoven with streams and ponds. Guided tours are available.
Another homage to New York City, Manhattan Club in Belgrano is your typical Argentine restaurant serving mediocre medialunas, milanesas and pizza, but in a strangely surreal setting. It’s a mini version of the Chrysler Building, without the height or prestige. Situated on the corner on a busy avenue, Manhattan Club may bear an external resemblance to the New York tower, but that’s where the similarity ends. The iconic pinnacle of the Chrysler building is plonked in the middle of two gables that have literally zero connection with the silver tower, and inside, curving chrome counters evoke an American diner, and it’s all so decontextualised that the whole thing is just weird, weird, weird.
Palacio Barolo makes it onto the weird list because of its premise: based on the configuration of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the office block was designed by Italian architect Mario Palanti for Italian businessman Luis Barolo. The palace’s 22 floors are divided into three sections: hell, purgatory, and heaven. The building uses a lot of Masonic symbolism, its foundations are based on the Golden Ratio, and a lighthouse at the very top casts a beam all the way to its sister building in Montevideo, Uruguay. When it was built, it was the tallest building in South America, and views out over the city from the dome are some of the best in Buenos Aires. Tours are available.
This Masonic temple in Barracas, southern Buenos Aires, is visually at odds with its down-at-heel surroundings. Located in an industrial neighbourhood, this Freemason lodge sports an odd Egyptian-style facade, with ornate decoration and opulent colors that set it apart from the traditional residences on either side. And of course, what happens behind closed doors may be weird too, as the practices of Freemasonry are rather secretive. You can go on a tour of the building, where all will – perhaps – be revealed.
The National Library is more epic than weird, but it still has a futuristic, space-age thing going on. Brutalist and monolithic, the rectangular cantilever of the National Library soars over its salubrious setting in Recoleta, visually dominating the area. Designed by famed architect Clorindo Testa, the library is a source of national pride, and sits on a site that was once home to president and first lady Juan and Eva Peron. Find out about tours here.