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Biblioteca Nacional de la Republica Argentina
Hulking hideously over a leafy section of Recoleta is the brutalist Biblioteca Nacional de la Republica Argentina. This raw concrete monster recalls what went wrong in cities and on campuses across North America and the UK during the construction boom of the 1960s. This Buenos Aires project was announced in 1960 - just as municipalities and universities up north were starting to throw up inexpensive slabs of this type. In the 80s, Prince Charles became the most famous critic of the architecture and by the time Argentina's new National Library finally opened its doors in 1993, many of its unpopular siblings in England, Canada and the USA had been demolished.
The library's block-like unfriendliness punishes innocent citizens who happen to look up as they walk by. The top heavy structure, resembling an obsolete offshore oil rig, sits on the site of a house the Perons lived in until Evita's death in 1952. Down the slope on Libertador a statue shows her fleeing the scene, as if afraid the Biblioteca will topple over on her head.
The National Library suffers from problems that are apparently common in brutalist buildings. For example the harsh concrete facade has aged poorly and attracted graffiti. And careless maintenance doesn't help matters. A few letters have fallen off the sign above the hard-to-find entrance, and national flags decorating the broken-tile plaza are faded and dirty. A common garden hose and plastic kitchen pail are visible in the bushes. Celebrating only it's 15th anniversary, the library looks easily three times as old.
Inside I found only one working elevator and a surprisingly small amount of public space. Also missing were any noticeable books. The few students in residence were, however, enjoying absolute silence and spectacular views.
A quote from a wikipedia summarizes quite nicely what was terribly wrong with the decision to build this library in this location: "Brutalism...is criticized as disregarding the social, historic, and architectural environment of its surroundings, making the introduction of such structures in existing developed areas appear starkly out of place and alien." The Biblioteca Nacional is unfortunately a spectacular example of this type of incongruous mismatch.