one step at a time…

housing for the masses: para agentes policiales, 1926

Hogar Policial (no official name), 24 units • San Telmo
Avenida Independencia & Avenida Ingeniero Huergo

Throughout the previous posts in this series, you’ve seen a variety of solutions to the housing shortage in Buenos Aires after millions of immigrants arrived. To refresh your memory, there were three groups responsible for building housing projects:

  • religious organizations funded through donations
  • the Comisión Nacional de Casas Baratas with federal government funding
  • the privately-owned Compañía de Construcciones Modernas
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housing for the masses: unbuilt bereterbide

Fermín Bereterbide, unbuilt projects, Boletín del Honorable Concejo Deliberante 1939

Something that caught my eye while I was researching the history of BA housing is the large number of projects that were never built. Lots of factors prevented plans from becoming a reality… lack of funds, disagreement over execution, problems purchasing land, excessive construction costs, or even international conflicts. Take your pick. So when I come across plans of projects that could have been, it’s a bit like discovering a time capsule.

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housing for the masses: barrio parque los andes, 1928

Buenos Aires, Chacarita, Barrio Parque Los Andes, Wikipedia photo, circa 1930

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

That must have been Fermín Bereterbide’s motto. Shortly after constructing his first housing project in the neighborhood of Flores, he won another city-sponsored contest for three more developments. Futuristically named “Alpha,” “Beta,” & “Gamma,” only the first was built. The others were destined for Palermo & Flores, but never became more than plans on paper… definitely a loss for Buenos Aires.

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housing for the masses: la mansión de flores, 1924

La Mansión de Flores, 1924 • Flores
Yerbal & Gavilán

Social do-gooder architect Fermín Bereterbide didn’t waste much time. After graduating in 1918, his first major contest win was only 2 years later for a housing project to be located in Flores, sponsored by the Unión Popular Católica Argentina. But winning the contest didn’t mean it was built right away. The UPCA had to find land at an affordable price, & they finally found what they were looking for… right by the railroad tracks. As part of a purchase/donation, half of a city block was available for Bereterbide’s winning design in 1923. Construction took less than one year.

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housing for the masses: barrio cafferata, 1921

Barrio Cafferata, Parque Chacabuco, Buenos Aires, vivienda social, housing project, 1921

Barrio Cafferata, 1921 • Parque Chacabuco
Avenida José M. Moreno & Salas

For all the private donations & construction projects I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the federal Comisión Nacional de Casas Baratas (CNCB) had only one building complete by 1920. Large tracts of land purchased by the government sat empty while legislators debated on the best (& most affordable) way to build housing projects. I’m not sure whether it was embarrassment at their years of inaction or merely a decision to experiment, but the early 1920’s were a busy time for the CNCB.

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housing for the masses: microbarrio la colonia, 1914

Microbarrio La Colonia, 1914 • Parque Patricios
Cachí & José A. Cortejarena

Initially I hadn’t planned on writing about this particular housing project, but Friday I spent a couple hours at the Instituto Histórico & found an article about it written by their staff in 1987. Since there is relatively little info anywhere else about this, I thought I’d post it for anyone who might be interested.

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housing for the masses: casa chorizo

Buenos Aires, casa chorizo, Parque Chas

Of the many different solutions proposed & built to solve the Argentine housing crisis, it’s easy to forget how innovative they really were. We’re used to seeing modern versions as apartment complexes & condominiums. Big deal. But it was the first time that they had ever been built in Argentina. One hundred years ago in Buenos Aires, none of those types of living quarters existed. Zero.

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housing for the masses: microbarrio monseñor espinosa, 1923

Microbarrio Monseñor Espinosa, 1923 • Barracas
Perdriel & California

Contrasting greatly with the previous complex, these semi-detached chalets are like a little piece of paradise. Also built with fundraising money from the Unión Popular Católica Argentina, land was donated by the Pereyra Iraola & Herrera Vega families. Gardens cut through 60 units in a cross shape, & note that this is not the size of a city block… but it’s about half of an overly large block. In fact, the odd shape is due to following the diagonal line of the existing layout. Designed by Carlos Cucullu, it has been wonderfully maintained & I would love to live there.

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