Bookshelf: Buenos Aires, The Biography of a City

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'Buenos Aires: The Biography of a City' by James Gardner - Jacket design by David Baldeosingh Rotstein

I especially enjoyed this book by James Gardner, “Buenos Aires: A Biography of a City,” published in 2015, which examines the history of the city through the lens of its architecture. The city grew slowly at first, we learn, not least because Pedro de Mendoza’s founding party in 1534 contained a large proportion of aristocrats who held “all skills in contempt.” There was not a farmer among them, Gardner reports. We also learn that the reason Buenos Aires lacks the baroque architecture gracing other Spanish colonial cities, is that Spain insisted that all trade with Europe proceed via Lima, severely impeding the city’s merchants and restricting their wealth. Gardner delves into the city’s “Golden Age,” the period between 1880 and 1920, when so many of its magnificent Beaux Arts palaces and civic buildings were constructed. But he doesn’t shy away from opinionated analysis of the mostly unattractive structures erected in later years. “As we review what was built in Buenos Aires from the 1940s to the 1980s, there is an overwhelming temptation to find in the shabbiness of the architecture an expression of the tawdriness of the regimes that created it.” He continues, tartly, “I can think of no good reason to resist this interpretation.” However, the most recent buildings, such as those of the modern Puerto Madero development, garner deserved praise.

Read more about our editor’s trip to Argentina

By Hideaway Report Editor Hideaway Report editors travel the world anonymously to give you the unvarnished truth about luxury hotels. Hotels have no idea who the editors are, so they are treated exactly as you might be.
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