The Ultimate Tour of Uruguay’s Architectural Landmarks

Architecture in Montevideo
Architecture in Montevideo | © Gonzalo Díaz Fornaro/Flickr
Photo of Milena Fajardo
23 October 2017

There are some outstanding Uruguayan architects present in the world right now. It is humbling to think of their beginnings—which buildings in their home country moved them and which ones will encourage the next generations. Read our list featuring 12 of the most significant architectonic landmarks in Uruguay, and be inspired to travel and see them yourself.

Casapueblo – Carlos Páez Vilaró

Carlos Páez Vilaró is one of Uruguay’s most successful and prominent visual artists. He designed Casapueblo to be his workshop, and later on donated it, along with a big portion of his work, to become a museum. The building is erected on top of tall cliffs facing the Atlantic Ocean, providing visitors with majestic views. Casapueblo is very beautiful and uniquely shaped. The inspiration for its design was the rufous hornero birds’ nests, which resemble clay ovens.

Casapueblo, Punta Ballena, Maldonado, Uruguay

Casapueblo museum, Punta Ballena, Maldonado, Uruguay

Casapueblo, Punta Ballena | © Raphael Labaca Castro/Flickr

Palacio Salvo – Mario Palanti

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The magnificent Palacio Salvo is impossible to ignore
The magnificent Palacio Salvo is impossible to ignore | The magnificent Palacio Salvo is impossible to ignore
This building is emblematic to Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo, as it is a National Heritage Monument. It has 27 floors and is 100 meters tall, which made it South America’s tallest tower from 1928 to 1935. Its architectonical style is a kind of eclectic Art Decó, combining Renaissance and Gothic references with Neoclassical elements. It’s often seen as a symbol of the city’s more prosperous years, during the early decades of the 20th century.

Teatro Solís – Carlo Zucchi

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Teatro Solís, as delicate as it is opulent
Teatro Solís, as delicate as it is opulent | Teatro Solís, as delicate as it is opulent
Solis Theater is one of the most important artistic settings in Montevideo. The interior is dazzling; it has a big, elliptical shaped hall, and four rings of floors for people to spectate, characteristic of the typical elements found in lyric theaters. It is Montevideo’s first theater, and about 160 years old. Its last restoration finished in 2004, and rejuvenated the original building enormously while maintaining its original architecture.

Hotel Casino Carrasco – Gastón Mallet, Jacques Dunant

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Sofitel Montevideo
Sofitel: beautiful by day, stunning by night | Sofitel: beautiful by day, stunning by night
This is a historic hotel and casino in the Carrasco neighborhood in the suburbs of Montevideo city. This neighborhood is beautiful, with big parks, mansions, and a lot of greenery. It has one of the nicest beaches in the city, alongside where this hotel is located. The hotel was finished in 1921, after nine years of construction, and was closed in the late 1990s because of its eventual deterioration. It was built straight on the promenade, next to the coast of Montevideo, in an architectural style that was inspired by the Classic and the Baroque. It was restored and opened up to the public again in 2013, and continues to be, as it was before, a landmark of luxury for tourists visiting the country.

Parish of Cristo Obrero – Eladio Dieste

This peculiar church is located in the coastal city of Atlantida, a popular resort destination in the summer because of its proximity to Montevideo. Dieste, a renowned Uruguayan architect, based most of his designs in the style of rationalism and constructivism, featuring a lot of brick work. This church is a fine example of Dieste’s distinctive work, of innovative architectonic thinking in Uruguay, and at the same time it still is in accord to its surroundings.

Parroquia del Cristo Obrero, Avenida Monseñor Jose Orzali, Estación Atlántida, Canelones, Uruguay

Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral – Tomas Toribio, Bernardo Poncini

This was Montevideo’s first catholic temple, and is a National Heritage Monument. It is located in Ciudad Vieja, the Old City district, in front of Plaza Matriz, one of the city’s most famous squares. Its origins date back to the colonial period; the first building for this church was constructed around the 1740s. It was then replaced with the building that still stands today, in a Neoclassical style. It is beautiful and well worth a look inside.

Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral, Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo Cathedral, Ciudad Vieja, Uruguay

Montevideo Cathedral | © John Seb Barber/Flickr

Alfredo Vázquez Acevedo Institute – Alfredo Jones Brown

This building was constructed in 1911 as a public secondary school, and now still functions as one, as well as being a National Heritage Monument. It was built facing the opposite way as the University of the Republic, so that theoretically they wouldn’t compete against each other. It has two backyards, a basement, two storys and an observatory. All rooms have windows overlooking the backyards. The roof of this building is iconic and easily recognizable, presenting a colorful geometric design made with ceramic tiles.

IAVA, José Enrique Rodó, Montevideo, Uruguay

Santuario Nacional del Cerrito de la Victoria – Elzeario Boix, Horacio Terra Arocena, Ernesto Vespignani

This church is a catholic temple, erected on the top of a hill in the neighborhood Cerrito (“little hill”) in Montevideo. It was declared a National Heritage Monument in 1975, and is currently in the middle of a restoration process. It was constructed in 1926 in the style of Byzantine Revival architecture, which incorporates elements of the Byzantine style from the 5th to 11th centuries, associated with the Eastern and Orthodox Christianity of Constantinople and Eastern Rome.

Santuario Nacional del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, Bruno Méndez, Montevideo, Uruguay

Palacio Legislativo – Vittorio Meano, Gaetano Moretti

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Palacio Legislativo, parliament, Uruguayan architecture, architecture
Montevideo's Palacio Legislativo is beautiful from every angle. | Montevideo's Palacio Legislativo is beautiful from every angle.
Another National Heritage Monument, the Legislative Palace was built between 1908 and 1925, and was inaugurated on August 25, 1925 to mark the centenary of the Declaration of Independence. Designed in a very typical Neoclassicist style, it is erected in the middle of a very wide avenue, which gives the main façade of the building a fantastic perspective. Every five years, the Inauguration of the newly elected President starts at the Legislative Palace with a parade that finishes in the Estévez Palace, another building with a similar Neoclassicist façade.

“El Indio” Building – Jorge Caprario

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Edificio El Indio, Uruguayan architecture, architecture, Montevideo, Uruguay, building
A giant Indian on a horse is committed to protecting this building. | A giant Indian on a horse is committed to protecting this building.
This building was constructed in 1942, right in the middle of World War II, and was the property of its architect for years before it became a communal residential space. The foundations of this building go to about 17 meters deep, because of the shortage of iron at the time. It is even said that helmets, cannonballs and arrowheads were found during the excavation to build the pillars. The prominent features of the building are its nautical style, inspired by the bow of a ship, and the immense depiction of Tabaré, an important Native American figure, riding his horse between flames of fire. The façade used to be illuminated with red, yellow, blue, and white lights, for the fire and sky, respectively.

Susana Soca Chapel – Antoine Bonet

This is considered an architectonical treasure. It is built in concrete and colored glass, which are combined in triangular shapes of different sizes across the ceiling and walls. This creates an incredible spectacle of lights, combining the use of architecture and stained glass in an incredibly modern way. A somber, mysterious atmosphere is created inside, with various elements of symbolism, most notably the three sides of the triangles to represent the Holy Trinity.

Capilla Susana Soca, Doctor Francisco Soca, Canelones, Uruguay

Carrasco International Airport – Rafael Viñoly

This is Uruguay’s main international airport, and is located on the outskirts of Montevideo. It is now undergoing a process to become fully self-sufficient with its own renewable energy. The project started construction in 2003 and finished in 2009. It is now seen as a contemporary landmark in terms of the space and building in itself, and as a symbol for Uruguay in terms of investment, architecture, quality, innovation and technology. The design features a big ceiling, great transparency, an optimization of natural light and very ample spaces. There are two independent levels connected by inside escalators, one for arrivals and another for departures, and a viewing deck.

Carrasco International Airport, Ciudad de la Costa, Canelones, Uruguay